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Cornyn on shortlist to replace Comey


Big John Cornyn

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is on the short list to succeed James Comey as FBI director, according to a White House official.

Cornyn is one of about 11 contenders for the post, according to Fox News.

He has strong relationships with members of his conference and would likely sail through confirmation. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn served as Texas attorney general, a Texas Supreme Court justice and a local judge.

In the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing, Cornyn did not take the opportunity to lobby for the position.

“I’m happy serving my state and my country,” he told reporters off the Senate floor.

But that comment came Wednesday, which was a lifetime ago during a dramatic week in Washington.


A Senate vacancy could make for dramatic change in the state’s political pecking order.

Gov. Greg Abbott would be tasked with a short-term appointment, but several months later the state would hold a special election to finish the duration of the term, which ends in 2021.

When Lloyd Bentsen resigned from the U.S. Senate to become Treasury Secretary in 1993, Gov. Ann Richards appointed former U.S. Rep. Bob Krueger, a Democrat, to hold the post until a special election could be held. That was a noisy affair with two dozen candidates — including a couple of sitting members of Congress at the time — that ended with Texas Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison beating Krueger in the special election runoff. She ran successfully for a full term the next year and remained in the U.S. Senate until the end of 2012.

As the story notes, the odds of this happening are quite slim, so anything we say here is highly speculative. But hey, isn’t that what a blog is for? The main thing I would note is the timing of a special election to complete Cornyn’s unexpired term. The special election in 1993 to succeed Lloyd Bentsen took place on May 1, 1993, which was the first uniform election date available after Bentsen resigned and Krueger was appointed. That means a special election to replace Cornyn – again, in the unlikely event this comes to pass – would then be in November of this year, with that person serving through 2020. The good news here is that it means that an elected official who isn’t subject to a resign-to-run law would be able to run for this seat without having to give up the seat they currently hold. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can think of a sitting member of Congress who might be enticed to jump into such a race.

Two other points to note. One is that, at least according to the story, Abbott is not allowed to appoint himself. It’s not clear to me why that is so – the story references “precedent based in common law, not statute”, so I presume there was a lawsuit or maybe an AG opinion in there somewhere. I know I recall people urging Ann Richards to appoint herself in 1993, but it may be the case that she was not allowed to due to the same precedent. Someone with a more extensive understanding of Texas history will need to clarify here. Point two is that if Abbott names a sitting Republican officeholder, then there would of course be a special election to replace that person, either (most likely) this November for a member of Congress or next year for a statewide official. And yes, Abbott could appoint Dan Patrick, perhaps to take him out of any possible challenge to himself in 2018. Keep that in mind if your first instinct is to cheer a possible Cornyn departure. Like I said, all highly speculative, so have fun batting this around but don’t take any of it too seriously just yet.

Hector Uribe files for Land Commish

We have one more contested statewide primary on the Democratic side as former State Sen. Hector Uribe has filed for Land Commissioner. (Bill Burton of Athens is already in.) Here’s Uribe’s press release:

Former state Senator Hector Uribe filed to be a Democratic candidate for Texas Land Commissioner today. Uribe returns to state politics after a 14 year hiatus, when he was the Democratic nominee for Texas Railroad Commissioner.

“The current Republican leadership is short-sighted. Texans want our state leaders to help address the real threats to our environment, but many of our current state leaders continue to minimize the importance of having clean water to drink and clean air to breathe,” Uribe said.

“National and international environmental policies on global warming have serious impacts on long-term state education funding. The Republican leadership should be concerned about any negative impact on education funding. Instead, they deny the existence of global warming, deny the science that CO2 emissions contribute to global warming, and instead they fan the fires of secession. That’s not responsible leadership, that’s failed leadership. They claim that pro-environment policies will negatively impact our economy and education funding. That’s not an answer, that’s a cop out,” he added.

“We don’t have to choose between a clean environment, and maximizing the return on state lands to fund our neighborhood schools. We can do both, and as Land Commissioner, I intend to do both,” Uribe said. “Our campaign will focus on how best to serve both objectives.”

Uribe served as a Texas state Senator from Brownsville from 1981 until 1990, and represented the counties of Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo and Jim Wells. Prior to serving in the Senate Uribe served in the Texas House of representatives for about three years.

As a state Senator he wrote the Texas Enterprise Zone Act, designed to create new businesses and jobs in economically distressed areas. He also wrote the Protective Services for the Elderly Act to guard against elder neglect and abuse as well as legislation establishing the University of Texas at Pan American in Edinburg and Brownsville.

During his final session in the Texas Senate he served as Chair of the Natural Resources Standing Subcommittee on Water that wrote the first colonias legislation and created a bond package to assure clean water and sewer facilities for colonia residents. As a member of the Natural Resources Committee he voted to create a super fund to clean up contamination left by leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. As Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, he authored legislation to regulate and require indoor air quality in public buildings and to regulate asbestos removers.

The release also contained a bio of Uribe, which you can see in this Google doc. It all sounds pretty good, and I look forward to hearing more about him, but Texas was quite a different place when he last ran for office, in 1996 for Railroad Commissioner against Carole Keeton then-Rylander, who defeated him by a 58-39 margin for her first full term in office; she had ousted Mary Scott Nabers, who was appointed in 1993 as a replacement for Bob Krueger when he was tapped as Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s successor, in 1994. I hope that after all this time he has a good feel for what the lay of the land is like now, and that he has the ability to raise the funds he’ll need to run a competitive race. PDiddie, BOR, Trail Blazers, and The Trib, which notes that Uribe is also a movie actor, have more. I’ll have a full roundup of filings later once all the info is available.

More names surfacing for statewide runs

Via Greg, it appears that Smokey Joe Barton may want to party like it’s 1993.

No one seems to be mentioning U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, as a candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Turns out that Barton — who came in third in the 1993 special election that Hutchison won in a runoff — is indeed thinking about running.

“Congressman Barton continues to watch the developments in Texas politics with an interested eye,” spokesman Sean Brown said. “He believes serving the entire state of Texas as their next senator would be an honor. If and when an opportunity presents itself, he will discuss it with his wife, family and supporters before making any decision.”

If he runs, Barton, a congressman since 1985, will not have to give up his seat, but he will have to do something pretty quickly about an awkward situation.

His longtime campaign consultant and spokesman, Craig Murphy, is also the spokesman for Roger Williams, the Weatherford auto dealer and former secretary of state who — oops — is running for Senate.

Barton drew a shade under 14% of the vote in the 24-candidate field, good for third place and a smidgeon ahead of former Republican Congressman Jack Fields. He wasn’t anywhere close to finishing in the money, however, as KBH and appointed Sen. Bob Krueger each received 29%. I have no idea why he thinks he might do any better this time around, but hey, dream big. And I’ll somewhat churlishly note that it’s only a free shot if KBH does in fact resign, which I’ll believe when it actually happens. Burka, who notes that Barton has a decent chunk of change in his campaign coffers, suggests the possibility of Barton being Perry’s appointee to the seat. I dunno about that, but as he says, stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, via Marc Campos, this Statesman article is mostly about the Governor’s race and the top Democratic contenders (Tom Schieffer) and potential contenders (State Sen. Kirk Watson, Ronnie Earle) for it, but the interesting bit in the story to me was this paragraph:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democrats’ 2006 U.S. Senate nominee, has announced she’ll run for state attorney general. Others who have run before (Hank Gilbert, agriculture commissioner; Sam Houston, Texas Supreme Court; William Moody, Texas Supreme Court; Richard Raymond, land commissioner; Nick Lampson, U.S. House) are described by party leaders as weighing or intending statewide bids.

I can confirm that Hank Gilbert is running. Moody and Houston are great names to hear, as they were the Democratic frontrunners in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Having them both on the ticket – I’m hoping they’re not each eyeing Harriet O’Neill’s open seat – would be an asset. I know Rep. Raymond has had ambitions for another statewide run, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. As for former Rep. Lampson, I know he mulled a Senate run in 2008 before deciding to try for re-election in CD22. I’ve no idea offhand what office he might have in mind – the Senate special election field is pretty crowded – so I don’t know what to say about this other than it’s the first I’ve heard of it as well.

One more thing from the Statesman piece:

Earle, who earlier said he might run for attorney general, said that he’s no longer eyeing that possibility; he’s had a law enforcement post.

So it’s presumably Governor or nothing for Earle, unless he’s open to the Lite Guv position; I’m assuming he’s not interested in running for Comptroller or Land Commissioner or something like that. But AG is out, so that’s good news for Radnofsky.