No Texas House member has been elected to statewide office while still serving as a legislator since Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Dan Morales won the races for agriculture commissioner and attorney general respectively in 1990.
Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones was preparing to be sworn in to a third term in the House in early 2005 when Governor Rick Perry appointed her to an opening on the Texas Railroad Commission. But Jones, who resigned as the RRC chair this week to focus full-time on a state Senate bid, was an incumbent when she won her first statewide election in 2006.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples was the last incumbent state senator to win a promotion to the statewide level with his election to his current post six years ago. Staples, a Republican who's running for lieutenant governor in 2014, represented an East Texas district in the House for six years before a six-year stint in the Capitol's east wing.
But 22 years have passed since a member of the House engineered a successful campaign for a position that made every Texan a constituent. That could change in two years, however, with a growing number of representatives contemplating statewide races or being mentioned increasingly as potential contenders for jobs at that level. All of them at this point are Republicans.
State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas is eyeing a potential campaign for lieutenant governor if he doesn't choose to run for attorney general in 2014 instead. State Rep. John Zerwas of Houston has been entertaining the possibility of a bid for Texas comptroller in two years while State Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth tests the waters for a possible race for agriculture commissioner.
State Reps. Brandon Creighton of Conroe, Harvery Hilderbran of Kerrville and Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi are considering campaigns for Texas land commissioner or being encouraged to run for the post when it's on the ballot again in two years.
Republican State Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa is getting a jump on the potential parade from the House to the statewide level with a bid for a Railroad Commission opening this year.
In addition to being members of the GOP, the Texas House members whose names are circulating through political circles as potential statewide contenders in the next election cycle are linked by another common denominator. All are committee chairmen on House Speaker Joe Straus' leadership team. Branch, Geren and Hunter are all A-list members in the cadre of Straus lieutenants.
Branch is one of the speaker's close personal friends who serves as the Higher Education Committee chairman. Hunter leads the Calendars Committee - a position that makes him one of the two or three most powerful lawmakers on the west side of the rotunda. Geren is one of a dozen Republicans who put Straus in position to win the speaker's election three years ago - and he's served as the House Administration Committee chairman ever since.
The interest that a long list of House members are showing in possible statewide campaigns stems from the fact that there will be more opportunities for advancement to that level in 2014 than there have been in years. In a state where Republicans have held every statewide position for the past 13 years, the competition for spot on the GOP ticket has been highly intense for openings that have been few and far between.
All of the current statewide officeholders in Texas with the exception of judges and railroad commissioners have been serving at that level for almost 10 years or more. Most of those have been holding their turf and patiently waiting for the bottleneck to unclog with movement at the top of the ticket. That's finally happening with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's campaign for the U.S. Senate this year and predictions that Governor Rick Perry won't seek another term in 2014 after an unsuccessful bid for president in 2012.
Operating on the assumption that Dewhurst will win a U.S. Senate seat as the early frontrunner, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Staples are both campaigning for lieutenant governor. Comptroller Susan Combs has appeared to be on the verge of entering the race to replace Dewhurst as well even though she hasn't ruled out a race for re-election to her current job in 2014.
Attorney General Greg Abbott is poised to launch a campaign for governor if and when Perry decides to step down - and the state's top lawyer might decide to pursue a gubernatorial bid even if the incumbent is a candidate for re-election in two years.
Patterson was still a member of the Texas Senate when he lost to Dewhurst in a GOP primary battle for land commissioner in 1998 - the year that Perry won the lieutenant governor's job while Combs was elected to take his place as the state's top agricultural official. Patterson bounced back and won the land commissioner's post in 2002 when Dewhurst was elected lieutenant governor for the first time.
Combs served three years in the Texas House before resigning in midterm in 1996 to take a job on U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's staff. Combs won statewide for the first time two years later with a victory in the agriculture commissioner's race.
Perry was in the midst of his third term as a conservative House Democrat from West Texas when he switched parties in 1989 and won the agriculture commissioner's contest by ousting a Democratic incumbent the following year.
Morales, a San Antonio Democrat who'd been one of Perry's colleagues in the House freshmen class in 1985, served three terms in the lower chamber as well before winning the attorney general's position in 1990. Morales served two terms as attorney general before losing a race for governor in 2002 and landing in federal prison a few years later in the wake of convictions on a series of public corruption charges.
Several Democrats including Bob Bullock, John Sharp and Jim Mattox had served in the Texas House before taking intermediate steps on an eventual path to statewide office. Bullock left the House in 1959 after one term and worked briefly as a lobbyist before stints as Preston Smith's chief of staff in the governor's office and secretary of state. Bullock was elected state comptroller in 1976 before winning the lieutenant governor's job initially in 1990. Smith was a former House member from Lubbock who was serving as a state senator when he won statewide initially with a victory in the race for lieutenant governor in 1962.
Sharp served three years in the House and five more in the Senate before winning a spot on the RRC in 1986. Sharp won a promotion to take Bullock's place as comptroller four years later before unsuccessful bids for lieutenant governor in 1998 and 2002. Mattox represented a Dallas district in the Texas House for two terms before claiming a seat in Congress in the late 1970s. Mattox served two terms as attorney general before falling short in a Democratic gubernatorial primary runoff battle with Ann Richards in 1990.
Several Democrats including Tom Ramsey, Pete Patterson and current State Rep. Richard Pena Raymond of Laredo ran statewide and lost while they were sitting House members. Raymond lost to Dewhurst in the land commissioner's race in 1998 before winning a special state House election two years later.
Houston Democrat Rick Noriega resigned from the House before his term ended when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008.