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.
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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.