Schieffer out; White considering governor run

Democratic candidate Tom Schieffer is dropping out of the Texas governor's race, but wants Houston Mayor Bill White to get on the ballot
November 23, 2009 6:52:42 PM PST
After insisting for months that he was focused on a run for the U.S. Senate, Houston Mayor Bill White said Monday he would consider switching to the race for Texas governor now that a leading Democratic candidate has withdrawn. Tom Schieffer, a former state lawmaker who served as ambassador to Japan and Australia under Republican President George W. Bush, had racked up high-profile endorsements and was considered the establishment Democratic candidate for governor.

But Schieffer said he couldn't raise enough money for his race, and when he got out Monday he said he would support White even though the Houston mayor hasn't formally jumped in yet. About an hour after Schieffer spoke, White told a gathering of reporters at Houston City Hall that he would decide which office he was running for by Dec. 4.

He said he first wanted to hear from Texas voters about what he should do.

"I've had a lot of people bending my ear about what I ought to do next, and I ought to listen," White said.

Schieffer and White discussed the governor's race over the weekend in Houston, and that's when Schieffer said he decided to get out of the race. Schieffer said White, a wealthy Houston businessman who has donated over $1 million to his own Senate campaign, would be a "credible alternative" against the Republicans and he publicly urged other Democrats running for governor to get behind him.

"I am announcing today that I will no longer be a candidate for governor," Schieffer said. "I hope my actions will be a catalyst for others to reassess their intentions and to join me in supporting Mayor White for governor."

Democratic activists questioned Schieffer's ties to Bush, and as of July, he had less than a half million dollars in the bank, state records show.

"I frankly found it difficult to raise money," Schieffer said. "I just couldn't convince enough people that I could win." He said he had no plans to run for any other state office, nor many worries about how dispose of what remains in his campaign fund. "I've pretty well spent it," he said.

Schieffer, who was business partners with Bush before joining his administration as a diplomat, acknowledged that some Democrats had heartburn over his tight relationship with the Republican former president, but he downplayed the importance of it.

"I know there are a lot of people, or some people, that really have a visceral hatred for George Bush, and I'm sorry that they do," Schieffer said. "I didn't find it in the end a great impediment."

White's fundraising prowess and popularity in Houston could give him a leg up in a Democratic race that includes wealthy Houston hair care executive Farouk Shami, humorist Kinky Friedman and rancher Hank Gilbert. Shami recently said he would spend $10 million of his own money in pursuit of the Democratic nomination.

White had said repeatedly that he was focused on his Senate race, but speculation that he would enter the governor's race continued to reverberate in Austin. The chatter went up a notch on Nov. 13, when U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison changed the timeline of her departure from Washington.

She had said she planned to leave the Senate this year to run against Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary. But then she had a change of heart and said she would stay in Washington until after the March primary -- no matter who wins the Republican gubernatorial primary.

White referred to Hutchison's decision and said he shared her view that Texans "needs a new governor."

"Many of us are disappointed with (Perry's) performance," White said. "There's been a failure to make real, tangible significant progress."

White, former deputy secretary of energy in the Bill Clinton administration, had raised more than $6 million for a Senate run as of Sept. 30. Of that, White chipped in $1.3 million himself, according to Federal Election Commission records. The data shows he began October with $4.2 million in the bank.

Mayor White's full statement

"Since Friday a week ago Texans from all backgrounds and all regions have asked me to consider running to be our next Governor of Texas. Today I agree to consider running for Governor, and shall make a decision by Friday, December 4th.

"Before then I invite the citizens of Texas to weigh in on this decision by visiting my website and emailing me at billwhite@billwhitefortexas.com.

"Both our next Governor and Senator should bring new energy to the task of moving our state forward. In both positions, we need leadership that can bring our state together and reduce the strident partisanship in both Austin and Washington.

"Texans know we can do better than ranking dead last in the nation in the percentage of our population with a high school diploma. Texans know we can do better than the last decade of soaring electricity and insurance costs, and skyrocketing college tuition.

"Sen. Hutchison has postponed her departure from the Senate and acknowledged that her continued service limits her ability to campaign in our state. I share her belief, and that of her supporters, that we need a new Governor.

"I thank many thousands of Texans who have supported my campaign with their volunteer hours and dollars. I will listen to your views on how we can best work together to do what is right for Texas. I especially welcome advice from the citizens of Texas' largest city, who know me best and have supported leadership by solutions, not just soundbites. You have been my partners in moving Houston forward by finding common ground, and running our City Hall with integrity, in a business-like, financially sound, and inclusive manner.

"Politics aside, Texans should enjoy their friends and family during this week of Thanksgiving and say a prayer for those who cannot be home with their loved ones because they are serving us abroad."


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