AUSTIN – The top vote-getting Democrat from the 2006 elections — agriculture commissioner nominee Hank Gilbert — said today he plans to join the fight for his party's gubernatorial nomination.
Gilbert, 49, a Tyler-area rancher, received 42 percent of the vote in his race against Republican Todd Staples for agriculture commissioner.
In the current governor's race, Gilbert said he can bridge the gap between Democrats and moderate Republicans who are “disgusted” with incumbent Rick Perry's service. Gilbert said he does not believe U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison can defeat Perry in the GOP primary.
Gilbert's entry into the race became another potential stumbling block for Fort Worth businessman Tom Schieffer, who received endorsements Wednesday from some of the top state House Democratic leaders.
They included Reps. Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar of Houston, Jim Dunnam of Waco and Pete Gallego of Alpine. The group said Schieffer will be able to govern the state by bringing Democrats and Republicans together.
Schieffer has been struggling to win over hard-core Democrats because he was business partners with former President George W. Bush and served him as ambassador to Japan and Australia, where he had to defend the administration policy of indefinite detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
Former party railroad commission nominee Mark Thompson also is in the race, and humorist Kinky Friedman is expected to join the fray.
Schieffer said he had hoped that Gilbert would run for agriculture commissioner again on a ticket with him.
“Ten days ago, Hank Gilbert talked to me about being part of the team and running the ag race. His exact words to me were: ‘You need to cover me in the urban areas and I'll cover your back in the rural areas,'” Schieffer said.
Gilbert said he had told Schieffer that at a Democratic summit in Tyler, but he said he changed his mind and decided to run for governor after listening to Schieffer speak.
“The man is very intelligent,” Gilbert said. “But he just didn't inspire me. I was looking for that spark.”
Read more in the Houston Chronicle