The Texas governor’s race has always been an interesting one. From Kinky Friedman, country musician turned politician, to Tony Sanchez, who spent $60 million of his own money only to lose handily to current governor Rick Perry, the saying holds true: “Everything is bigger in Texas.” This election cycle seems to be no exception.
One of the front-runners in the Republican primary is Texas’ longest-serving governor, Rick Perry. Elected lieutenant governor in 1998, Perry became governor when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. Perry has served four terms in the Texas House of Representatives and as Texas commissioner of agriculture. Endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Perry enjoys a 10-point lead as of Monday, according to Rasmussen Reports.
Another major contender for the seat is senior senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Currently the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Hutchison has also served in the Texas House of Representatives and as state treasurer. Serving as senator since 1993, Hutchison is the first and only female senator to represent Texas. Hutchison has been endorsed by, among others, former vice president Dick Cheney and the Texas Farm Bureau.
Although Perry and Hutchison are certainly powerhouses in Texas politics, Debra Medina, a longtime activist and businesswoman, has been gaining steam. Along with serving as Republican chairwoman of Wharton County, Medina has also served as the interim state coordinator for Campaign for Liberty, a grassroots organization founded by Ron Paul. Medina has also publicly advocated secession, and “she says she won’t rule out pulling a page out of Civil War history with a move to secede from the nation,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Whoever moves into the governor’s mansion will preside over a statewide redistricting process after the 2010 census. According to estimates, Texas could gain as many as four congressional seats. Although the state legislature will draw the new map, the governor will have to chance to veto, which gives him or her considerable power. Should a Democrat win, he or she would be the first in 20 years to preside as governor during a redistricting process.
While the race for governor is always a spectacle, the office itself is a limited one. Presiding over a legislature that meets only every two years, the office of Texas governor is relatively weak compared to that in other states. The governor is able to make appointments to major offices, including vacated U.S. Senate seats and the judiciary. Among other powers, the Texas governor is able to grant pardons and is able to call special sessions of the legislature.
With regard to higher education, the governor is able to submit, and therefore greatly influence, the budget for each fiscal year. In recent years, the governor “vetoed $36 million in state spending on higher-education projects and $154 million for employee benefits at community colleges,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. However, the governor appropriated funds to the Texas Higher Education Agency Board totaling $766.8 million for the 2008-09 biennium, “a 550.4 percent increase from the $117.9 million for the 1998-99 biennium” according to the governor’s Web site.
With so much at stake, it is of the utmost importance students inform themselves of the candidates and the issues. Another debate for the Republican primary is scheduled for Jan. 29, and all three candidates will be present. The primary election is March 2, and it is certain to go down in Texas history.