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And they’re off! The Race to Succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012 is Underway.

KBH will not seek re-election. Potential candidates abound.
KBH will not seek re-election. Potential candidates abound.

Since U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement last week that she will not seek re-election to the in 2012, names of several possible candidates, from both major parties, are beginning to surface. And while it’s still early, the GOP appears to be in prime shape to keep the seat regardless of who runs, according to a recent Public Policy Polling poll.

The poll listed several potential candidates, whether or not they've announced plans to run for the senate seat.  The list includes former presidential hopeful Congressman Ron Paul (R-Lake Jackson) and current San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

The top two choices of Texas Republicans in the poll to be their senate nominee are Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with 23 percent of the support, with 21 percent picking Rep. Paul.

In a separate web post, Public Policy Polling wrote:

Maybe a couple years ago the thought of Senator Paul would have seemed ridiculous but after his son breezed through both the Republican primary and the general election in Kentucky last year it seems a lot less farfetched that his dad might join him in the Senate as well. He has a highly committed base of supporters that at the least might help ensure him a runoff spot in what's likely to be an extremely crowded GOP primary field and you have to think he would be the most well funded candidate in the race if he decided to run, given his already existent national donor base.

Our political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune, Railroad CommissionerMichael Williamswill resign this week to focus full-time on the senate race.

Other Texas Republicans making the PPP list include, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the only other contender that mustered double-digits in the poll, with 14 percent; former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz; U.S. Representative Joe Barton; Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones; and former Secretary of State Roger Williams, who picked up an endorsement from former President George H.W. Bush last week but could only collect one percent of the vote in the PPP poll.

Potential Democratic challengers include San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who many are hoping can fire up the state's Hispanic vote. Former U.S. Representative Chet Edwards from Waco and former Comptroller John Sharp are also being mentioned as possible Democratic candidates.

While every hypothetical surveyed match-up on the PPP poll shows any GOP candidate holding a double-digit lead over any potential Democratic contender, it’s important to remember that the race is only beginning. The problem that many of the candidates face is statewide name recognition. Getting their name out will be critical to the candidates, especially for GOP contenders who may find themselves in a crowded field.

Mario will be an intern at KUT for the spring of 2011. He is currently a student at UT Austin pursuing his MA in Journalism. Prior to UT, he spent 27 months in Costa Rica as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His reporting interests include Mexican-American studies, immigration issues, and the ongoing drug war in Mexico. He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico but grew up in El Paso, Texas and has a BA in Communication from UT-San Antonio.
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