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Republicans already declaring for Texas Senate seat just days after Hutchison retires

The Republican primary to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is already crowded despite Hutchison’s announcement that she will not seek re-election in 2012 coming late last Thursday.

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams is already in the race and has scored a major political endorsement. Over the long weekend, he announced that his campaign will be backed by former President George H.W. Bush.

Hutchison’s move to retire was not a major surprise to many in the state, as she had previously indicated that she would resign her seat while she sought to displace Gov. Rick Perry (though she later recanted on that pledge). Williams had already declared his intention to seek his party’s nomination at that time, so he has been actively in the race since last year.

Another prominent potential candidate edged closer to making his bid official Monday. Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams will resign from his position later this week The Texas Tribune reported, likely allowing the Republican to begin his presumed Senate campaign. Texas Railroad Commissioners are responsible for overseeing Texas’ vast oil and gas industry.

Michael Williams’ possible campaign has already received favorable reviews from a number of national figures in the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. South Carolina U.S. senator and GOP kingmaker in 2010 Jim DeMint has already stated that he intends to support either Michael Williams or former solicitor general Ted Cruz, a message echoed by prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson at Red State.

Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka reported that in addition to his desire to seek higher office, Michael Williams had other motivations for resigning from his current position:

I was told by a former member of the Commission that Williams’ two co-commissioners, Elizabeth Ames Jones and David Porter, would have voted to remove Williams as chairman at the commission’s next meeting. (Indeed, moments after that phone conversation, the former commissioner called to say that Williams had resigned.) The reason for the enmity at the commission is a long-simmering dispute between natural gas pipeline companies and natural gas producers over the fees that pipelines can charge.

Though others have been more active after Hutchison’s initial announcement, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is expected to be the frontrunner to gain the GOP nomination. He is unlikely to announce an official campaign anytime soon, as he is currently occupied with overseeing the start of the state Senate’s new session through his position as lieutenant governor.

He would start the nomination competition with an advantage over his opponents: He has much experience winning statewide campaigns, higher name recognition through his current title (the Texas lieutenant governor is a far more powerful position than most other states) and holds a campaign war chest with $1.8 million as of eight days before the last general election, when he easily held his seat.

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