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A Rag-Tag Senate Field

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There’s a former CIA agent, a used car dealer and a corporate lawyer with an affinity for bow-ties—not to mention a Colonial Dame of America and a conservative constitutional attorney. It’s an usual field of candidates, and one of them will likely be Texas’ next U.S. senator.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced on Jan. 13 that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2012, and there are already at least half a dozen people in the race. Roger Williams—the used car dealer in the crowd—had already started passing out coozies in June touting his senate bid. Ever since Hutchison was speculated to resign way back in fall of 2009, there’s been a line of folks ready to take her spot. Four of the five front-runners already have websites up to laud their rather unusual credentials.

None of them are exactly typical candidates. Williams served as the secretary of state four years ago. He hasn’t actually held elected office, but no matter—he’s still got an endorsement from former Pres. George H.W. Bush. Ted Cruz, the constitutional attorney, hasn’t held elected office either, though he did serve as the state’s solicitor general from 2003 to 2008. Since then, he’s been practicing law and presumably counting down the days till Hutchison called it quits.

Michael Williams, the charismatic, bow-tied conservative who’s gaining a national reputation, resigned his post  on the Railroad Commission effective April 2. Rumors swirl that his co-commissioners would have taken away his chairmanship status, but now he’ll avoid any bruising discussions of the commission. He probably won’t be running a traditional race—his website bio includes a lengthy discussion of his eighth grade school year.

Elizabeth Ames Jones, who still serves as a railroad commissioner, has also beena  state representative. Because of her lineage, she is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of America, not to mention her work with Bat Conservation International.

Then there’s Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the leader of the pack despite that he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy. He has the best title. He’s got all the money he needs in his own bank account. He’s also the oddest of them all, with a history working in the CIA and reputation for idiosyncratic behavior. His new marriage, to late the state Sen. Teel Bivins’ wife, already provides some grist for the Capitol gossip mill.

With the state GOP in a strong position, the Republican candidate will likely win the general election. That means the fate of the race largely rests in the hands of a small piece of the electorate known as Texas Republican primary voters. They may not be representative of the whole—but then again, neither are the candidates.