Tom Leppert, the current Mayor of Dallas and former CEO of Turner Construction—the nation’s largest construction management company in the United States—will likely enter the 2012 Republican primary to replace Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
A few days after Hutchison announced her retirement last month, Leppert, a 1977 graduate of Claremont McKenna, announced that he will not seek reelection to his current office.
In that statement, Leppert wrote that, “over the next few weeks, with much thought and prayer, I will explore how I can best serve the people of Dallas, North Texas, and indeed the entire state of Texas.”
In an interview with the Forum, U.S. Representative David Dreier ’75 (R-CA), a member of Republican leadership and chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, commented that he has “always commiserated over the fact that I am the only person from CMC in the Congress.” That fact may soon change. Dreier told the Forum that a fellow Member confirms “he is running for [the Senate].”
Leppert was recently seen having lunch in the Member’s dining room on Capitol Hill with Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX). Hall, who is the dean of the Texas delegation, represents the Dallas area in Congress.
Leppert contacted the Forum to confirm he had lunch with Hall in DC, and noted they are “good friends.”
“Folks have encouraged me to run,” Leppert said, adding that he is “exploring opportunities,” though he would not announce that he is running at this time.
CMC Professor of Government Jack Pitney believes Leppert would be a strong candidate.
“He has won in a constituency that is not a cake walk for a Republican,” Pitney said. “He has a strong business background, and he doesn’t have the taint of a professional politician.”
The Republican field will likely be crowded. Declared candidates include Roger Williams, a former baseball player, coach, and businessman, who has previously served as Secretary of State; Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, a Tea Party supporter and African-American; and Elizabeth Ames Jones, the only declared female candidate and another Texas Railroad commissioner. Finally, Ted Cruz, Texas’ longest serving and first Hispanic Solicitor General, has also declared. Cruz’s wife, Heidi Suzanne Cruz, is an alumna of CMC, and currently serves as Vice President of Private Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs and on the Board of Advisors for the Robert Day School.
Other potential candidates include the independently wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Congressman Joe Barton, who gained national headlines for making controversial comments during the BP oil spill.
On the Democratic side, there are fewer likely candidates. Two names that have been repeatedly mentioned are Bill White and Ron Kirk. White is a former Mayor of Houston, and a failed gubernatorial nominee.
Kirk currently serves as President Obama’s U.S. Trade Representative. He is also a former Dallas mayor, and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2002.
When asked about Leppert’s chances in a primary, Pitney seemed cautious.
“It’s not a done deal that he would win the primary, precisely because he has been the mayor of a cosmopolitan city,” Pitney said.
“His Republican opponents might say that he has not been as purely conservative as Republican primary voters would like. But if electability is an issue, I think he has got a good shot.”