Tags: Gramm's | Senate | Retirement | Creates | Scramble

Gramm's Senate Retirement Creates Scramble

Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM

In the Democrat-controlled 50-49-1 U.S. Senate, Gramm is the third Republican this year to announce his retirement, along with Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.

Although there had been speculation that he might not seek re-election, Gramm's decision still startled many of the state's Republicans who were counting on his re-election as a "slam dunk" with little or no opposition next year. Instead, Gramm said he had had enough.

Gramm remarked in his news conference that there was a "very deep bench" among Texas Republicans qualified to succeed him in the Senate and added that he would be embarrassed if one of them was not elected next November. The Texas GOP was also optimistic.

"For the past decade, Texas Republicans have been cultivating a qualified, conservative 'farm team' of Republican leaders that today are well prepared to step forward and grasp the reigns of leadership," said state GOP chairman Susan Weddington.

At least six Republicans are considered possible candidates: U.S. Reps. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio and Joe Barton of Ennis, Attorney General John Cornyn, state Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, state Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, and state Railroad Commisioner Tony Garza.

Republican leaders face a serious situation not only in Washington with the loss of Gramm's "safe seat," but also in Texas, where they have to find a creditable candidate to replace him, said professor Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas in Austin.

"Even an open seat looks like a Republican seat in Texas right now, but you can't say for sure until the dynamics become more clear … so it's a bit risky for the Republicans for him to be pulling out," he said.

The dynamics are the many potential candidates in Austin and elsewhere around the state assessing their positions Tuesday in the wake of Gramm's startling announcement.

At least two prominent Democrats had expressed interest in the Senate race even before Gramm's announcement, and now their chances of entering the race seem even more likely.

Former Attorney General Dan Morales and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk are considering the race. Kirk, the city's first black mayor, is prohibited from running again because of term limits.

In an interview Tuesday with WFAA-TV in Dallas, Kirk said he was considering the race.

"The chance to serve in the United States Senate and work for the people of Texas on issues that they care about … it's something that would be attractive," he said.

Kirk, who was easily re-elected to a second four-year term, is not well known around the state, but that can be changed with money and an effective campaign, said professor Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"That's certainly something that can be changed for a prominent black candidate," he said. "It takes no time at all given the appropriate amount of money to get statewide recognition. What he would have to communicate, once he got his name out there, is what he did as mayor for Dallas, how he put together a multiracial coalition."

Rep. Ken Bentsen of Houston is also mentioned as a possible Democrat candidate for the Senate. The only announced Democrat candidate is Austin lawyer Ed Cunningham.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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In the Democrat-controlled 50-49-1 U.S. Senate, Gramm is the third Republican this year to announce his retirement, along with Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. Although there had been speculation that he might not seek re-election, Gramm's decision still startled many of...
Gramm's,Senate,Retirement,Creates,Scramble
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2001-00-04
Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM
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