Statewide election field opens up

One of the more interesting aspects of Texas’s political structure is the way in which we elect all our statewide constitutional officers all at once.

Starting with the governor, working our way down the totem pole, we elect all of them every four years. The next cycle comes up in 2014. We don’t elect all our railroad commissioners, nor do we choose our statewide judicial candidates. But the rest of ’em — comptroller, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner — are on the ballot.

And with Gov. Rick Perry bowing out of the race, the state is looking at a serious shakeup, according to Dallas Morning News political analyst and Texas political guru Wayne Slater.

It kind of reminds me of how we select our Amarillo city commissioners.

The whole slate of commissioners is up for election every odd-numbered year. This year’s campaign featured only one contested race, the one for mayor. All four commissioners were re-elected at-large. But what happens when a seat becomes vacant, or in the case of the 2011 election, three commission seats are vacated by incumbents? You get a thundering herd of candidates, which is what happened in Amarillo two years ago, when we elected a new mayor and two new commissioners.

The same dynamic may be occurring statewide as candidates jockey for the governor’s race. The lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, already has drawn three Republican challengers — Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston. And, with Patterson and Staples likely to give up their seats, you can bet those statewide races will draw plenty of attention, as Slater notes in the analysis attached to this blog.

And what about the Democratic field? Well, in GOP-friendly Texas, that is yet to be determined.

The 2014 statewide contest from top to bottom figures to be a donnybrook, at least for one of the state’s parties.

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