The Republican primary is already getting spicy as donors choose between Attorney General Abbott and Governor Perry.
But what's happening on the Democratic side? With Battleground Texas swooping in to give our state the Democratic voter push it needs, the Democratic effort will be one to watch. There are a number of good candidates who may run, but little besides speculation to go on for now. We can expect to see candidate announcements in June, when fundraising commences.
Who's On Deck for 2014?
State Representative Mike Villarreal: Representing San Antonio in the Texas House since 1999, Mike Villarreal has gained a name for himself as a serious legislator with an appealing personality. After growing up in San Antonio, Villarreal went to Texas A&M and then Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is now pursuing a PhD in public affairs at UT's LBJ School while teaching as an adjunct professor at St. Mary's University. He has spent the last three years focusing on education (a perfect issue to bring statewide) and budget transparency. Villarreal is young, a strong campaigner, and would certainly appeal to Texas's growing Hispanic voting population. The 123rd House District is safely Democratic, making Villarreal an even more appealing potential candidate for Texas Democrats.
Former Houston Mayor Bill White: The Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, Bill White has spent couple of years laying low in Houston while working in investments. White ran an impressive campaign all over Texas in 2010 that garnered national attention, and his loss is blamed in large part on the year's difficulty for Democrats nationwide. A poll released a few weeks ago by Public Policy Polling shows White leading Perry in a 2014 matchup, making a strong case for White's electability. White was a hugely successful mayor, and has a down-to-earth persona appealing to a broad swath of Texans. Earlier in 2010, White sought Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat before she took back her promise to retire. So it's not impossible that White will seek Sen. John Cornyn's Senate seat in 2014. But no one knows what White will do yet – he hasn't said anything either way.
State Senator Kirk Watson: Austin's former mayor is a well-known, personable legislator who would appear to have the energy for a run at the governor's office. He ran for Attorney General in 2002, losing to Greg Abbott, but 2014 is a very different year. Watson might be able to capitalize on his ability to rev up Democrats, six years of experience in the Texas Senate, and plentiful ideas to make a serious run at the governor's office.
Longer shots include…
State Representative Rafael Anchia: Representing Dallas in the Texas House since 2004, Anchia is known as a likable, hard-working legislator. Anchia would certainly run a good campaign with his appeal to both Latinos and Texas's growing 18-35 year old Demographic. Any plans about future runs for office are not yet known.
State Senator Wendy Davis: An energetic and charismatic progressive who singlehandedly forced a special session in 2011 by filibustering the state's inadequate education funding, Davis would be a very good candidate for governor. She's been representing Fort Worth since 2009 and regularly makes lists of state legislators to watch. Even if she doesn't run in 2014, Democrats will be hoping she does soon. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa recently said of Davis, “From the perspective of electability, she's one of our top superstars in Texas. Her sensibility and approach to politics will just automatically propel her as a top candidate for statewide office.”
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: San Antonio's mayor is the top Democrat in Texas and arguably the brightest rising star of Democrats nationwide. From his celebrated keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention to his upcoming autobiography, it's only a matter of time before Castro runs for higher office. But which office will that be? Castro just announced his re-election campaign in the 2013 San Antonio mayor's race, and says he's “not running” for governor in 2014. That's probably true, but he certainly deserves his place on this list – if only for all the buzz you'll hear about him around this race and others.
Whoever the candidate is, expect 2014 to be a year of energetic Democratic campaigning as Texas comes closer and closer to voting blue statewide.
Update: Thrillingly, State Senator Wendy Davis appears ready to run for governor.