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544If Hutchison runs for governor, Henry Bonilla will run for Senate

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  • Greg Cannon
    Feb 2, 2005
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      http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/3020492

      Feb. 2, 2005, 8:04AM
      If Hutchison goes, legislator will run
      Rep. Bonilla is exploring a run for the Senate despite
      Perry's plea to stay put
      By R.G. RATCLIFFE
      Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

      AUSTIN - U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla announced Tuesday
      that he is laying the groundwork for a Senate run,
      increasing speculation that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
      will challenge Gov. Rick Perry next year and prompting
      Perry to urge Texas' congressional delegation to keep
      their current jobs.
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      "I feel like that those in Washington, D.C., should
      stay focused on helping Texas up in Washington, D.C.,"
      Perry said. "Helping Texas is what we're all about.
      And the best way to do that, from my perspective, is
      for him (Bonilla) and all the other congressional
      delegation to stay there and do a great job for
      Texas."

      Hutchison has said she will make a decision by summer
      on whether to challenge Perry in the GOP primary,
      retire or run for re-election. Comptroller Carole
      Keeton Strayhorn also is looking at a possible primary
      challenge to Perry.

      Bonilla said he would not challenge Hutchison, but he
      is ready to run if she steps aside.

      "We all support Kay if she wants to run for
      re-election, but if she makes a decision for whatever
      reason to move on, I'm in," Bonilla told the Houston
      Chronicle.

      With the primary elections 13 months away, Bonilla's
      announcement was further evidence that there will be a
      Republican office toss in the primaries. GOP
      politicians hold every statewide office.

      There also is speculation that Attorney General Greg
      Abbott may run for Senate if Hutchison does not seek
      re-election. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also has been
      considered as a Senate candidate should Hutchison move
      on, but he has endorsed Perry for re-election and is
      thought to prefer running for governor in 2010.

      Bonilla said he has seen no evidence of other
      Republicans trying to lay the groundwork for a bid for
      Hutchison's seat.

      "I'm not hearing that anyone is geared up and taking
      it serious. So as others might ponder, we're signing
      people up," Bonilla said.

      Bonilla is a former television reporter and broadcast
      executive. He won his 23rd District seat in 1992 by
      soundly defeating scandal-plagued incumbent Albert
      Bustamante. But even though he outspent Democrat Henry
      Cuellar almost 2-to-1 in 2002, Cuellar came close to
      defeating Bonilla.

      That led Republicans to redraw Bonilla's district
      during the 2003 congressional redistricting battle. He
      won re-election in 2004 with 69 percent of the vote.

      This is not the first time Bonilla has explored such a
      run.

      When U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, decided to retire
      in 2001, Gramm offered to resign if Perry would
      appoint Bonilla as his successor.

      At first, Perry wanted to appoint then-Railroad
      Commissioner Tony Garza as Gramm's successor. Perry
      and Gramm gridlocked for so long that then-Attorney
      General John Cornyn entered the race. At that point,
      Gramm decided to finish his term of office, and
      Bonilla decided against running.

      Bonilla said he and Gramm have been working since last
      summer together to lay the groundwork for this Senate
      bid.

      "For months now we've been laying a foundation for
      this. Phil Gramm is my coach, co-pilot, friend,
      whatever you want to call him. He's coming off the
      bench to help me in this effort," Bonilla said.

      Bonilla said he already has support in Houston from
      U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Dr. James
      "Red" Duke. He said former U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler,
      R-Hunt, will serve as his statewide finance chairman.

      Bonilla said he has $1.1 million in the bank and a
      goal of raising another $500,000 by the end of March.
      He said if Hutchison seeks re-election, he will run
      again for his congressional seat.