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Williams Jumps In for Senate

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You can officially count Michael Williams in. The Texas Railroad Commissioner—known for his fiery speeches and ever-present bow tie—announced this morning that he’s joining the fast-growing Republican primary field to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate.

Looking resplendent in a polka-dotted bow tie, Williams made his candidacy official during a sit-down with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in downtown Austin. (The video will be posted here.)

After announcing his intention to run, Williams answered questions from Smith and the audience for about an hour. Williams came as advertised—conservative, market-oriented, generally against government regulation, pro fossil fuels and unconvinced that humans are causing climate change. Predictably, he criticized Obama administration policies; he said he’d vote to repeal the health care law.

Williams has long seemed like he’d make a formidable candidate in a Republican Senate primary. His energy-industry connections will undoubtedly help his fundraising. And he’s a popular figure among the party’s grassroots. Whether he’ll fulfill that potential remains to be seen.

His performance this morning was smooth, but largely unremarkable. Perhaps his most memorable line came in response to a question about climate change. Williams said he doesn’t believe that humans are responsible for the rise in carbon dioxide levels. That’s not a surprising position. In his years on the Railroad Commission—from which he just recently resigned effective this spring—Williams has been a vocal climate change skeptic. When Smith followed up and asked, “So we can put it down that you don’t believe in climate change?”

“You can put it down and you can underline it,” Williams said.

He was reluctant to discuss the political dynamics of the race. He did say he expects to raise and spend between $7 million and $8 million on the primary alone, but sidestepped several questions about Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former solicitor general Ted Cruz, two of his opponents for the GOP nomination. Of course, the primary is still 13 months away, so there’s plenty of time for criticizing his opponents. The 2012 Republican Senate primary is looking like it will be a rollicking campaign, and Williams is one of the more charismatic entrants.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.