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By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report

December 22, 2008 Texas: Williams Running for Senate

Michael Williams (R), the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, announced his candidacy on December 16 for incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) US Senate seat, which may be subject to a special election in 2010 or early 2011, depending on when -- or whether -- Hutchison resigns to run for governor in two years. Williams’ current post is a powerful one that gives him excellent access to financial support and to the backing of the influential business community. Williams, an African American, is a former prosecutor and also served in both the Reagan Administration and the first Bush Administration. Another GOPer getting mentioned for the Senate seat, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), is reported by Roll Call newspaper to be the choice of US Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

North Carolina: Miller Not Running for Senate

Congressman Brad Miller (D), mentioned as a possible challenger to US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010, announced this week that he will not run for the Senate, but will seek re-election to his Raleigh-based congressional seat instead. Miller was courted as a potential Democratic candidate against US Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) for 2008, but stayed put then, too. Other names still getting consideration for the race against Burr include US Rep. Heath Shuler (D), a former professional football player; state Treasurer Richard Moore (D), who lost (40%) the Democratic gubernatorial primary this year, and state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), his party’s top vote-getter in 2008. Just how vulnerable Burr will be is unclear. He is a skilled legislator and politician. On the other hand, Tar Heel Democrats are on a roll.

Virginia: Perriello’s Victory Official

In the 5th District (Charlottesville, etc.), six- term US Rep. Virgil Goode (R) conceded after a recount confirmed the victory of challenger Tom Perriello (D). The recount reduced Perriello’s 745-vote lead to 727 votes. Now it is also official that Democrats gained three congressional seats in Virginia this year.

Three Southerners Seek GOP Top Spot

Six contenders are running for chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), which meets on January 28 to elect a new head of the party. Three of the six are from Dixie, including incumbent RNC Chair Mike Duncan, the national committeeman from Kentucky; Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party; and Chip Saltsman, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and the 2008 campaign manager for Arkansan Mike Huckabee. The other three candidates are Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor and former state GOP chair in Maryland, one of two African-Americans in the race; Saul Anuzis, Michigan Republican chairman; and Ken Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State and former mayor of Cincinnati, who has joined his campaign with that of Texas GOP Chair Tina Benkiser, a candidate for RNC co-chair. Blackwell is also an African American. While Duncan has the advantage of being the incumbent, the others could get a boost from those who believe the Grand Old Party needs a fresh face at the helm in the new Obama era.


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