Advice to Senate Hopeful Leppert: Save Your Money

UPDATE: Lela Pittenger of Driftwood wrote to say I erred here calling Elizabeth Ames Jones the only woman running in the GOP Senate primary. Pittenger is also a candidate.

The Dwaine Caraway flap that Tim mentioned this morning isn’t the only issue that could haunt Tom Leppert’s U.S. Senate bid, which, if the experts prove correct, may be taking center stage soon. Just as Sarah Palin was called a quitter for failing to complete her Alaska governor’s term, Leppert could be viewed similarly, adding insult to injury in his case by leaving a guy like Caraway in charge.

But another, maybe bigger, millstone around Leppert’s neck is Washington Mutual bank, which he served as a director while it was becoming the biggest failed U.S. bank ever. It’s believed the FDIC may soon bring litigation against Washington-based WaMu, which specialized in the type of super-risky ARM home loans that played a big role in the economic crash. Daily headlines about that would give Leppert’s opponents some nice ammunition. After all, directors do–or at least should–bear some responsibility for a company’s actions.

These Achilles’ heels aside, the Dallas mayor would also bring a few pluses to a potential Senate run.

For one thing, Leppert has a track record as a successful businessman before becoming mayor. He presumably has many wealthy Dallas finance types in his corner. He’s a strong Baptist (preferring Christian “praise” music over most other genres) in a Bible Belt state, and he’s burnished his “green” credentials as mayor, something that could be appealing to the trendy suburban soccer-mom set. Also, like former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, Leppert is a world-class talker–a super-salesman who can dominate a stage.

Even so, Leppert would have a rough go of it in a GOP Senate primary.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is much better known and connected statewide, has his own very deep pockets, and has fashioned an image as a “cowboy”–always appealing in Texas–even though he’s about as slick an operator as they come. Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams also would be a formidable opponent. Williams is a solid conservative, a favorite of Tea Party icon Jim DeMint, and an African-American in a party that’s eager to promote its minority stars.

Other candidates in the Republican race are former Secretary of State Roger Williams (isn’t he the guy who played the piano?), former Texas Solicitor Ted Cruz (Ted who?), and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, the only woman running so far.

It now seems all but inevitable that Leppert will announce his bid for the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. After that, he’s likely to join Ron Kirk in the ranks of those ambitious enough to believe recently–and wrongly–that being mayor of Dallas is an ideal stepping-stone to the U.S. Senate.

Our best, unsolicited advice to Dallas’ current mayor: Save your money.

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