AUSTIN -- As the Texas summer gathers heat, the battle for political succession is heating up at the Texas Capitol.
In a January interview with WFAA, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) identified the window for announcing his next major political step -- a window he has referenced repeatedly since then in response to questions concerning his future ambitions.
"June or July is that time frame which I will share with you what my future plans for 2014 are," Perry said in January. Now with the 83rd Texas Legislature little more than a week into a special session called by Perry over redistricting, the governor doesn't appear ready to show his cards just yet.
"I'm not thinking about anything past the next 30 days. We've got this legislative session in front of us and some very important issues that are out there," Perry told reporters Friday. "Plenty of time in the future to be making decisions about what I may or may not do politically."
Whether it's running for a record fourth term as governor or launching another shot at the presidency, Perry would likely face sharp political divides. Despite Perry's less than spectacular exit from the 2012 Republican presidential primary contest, longtime Texas politics watcher and Quorum Report editor Harvey Kronberg says the state's most successful politician still has several things in his favor.
"He's still the elder statesman of the Texas economic miracle. He's still given social conservatives virtually everything they've ever wanted. He's been on the cutting edge of hard-edge conservatism for the last 15 years," said Kronberg. "So on paper he still looks like a really good candidate."
After wrapping up a legislative session defined mostly by its relative lack of hyper partisan bickering, Kronberg says Perry has the opportunity to end his tenure as the state's chief executive on a high note and turn his attention to more lucrative ventures.
"He can go out now, make some serious money as an individual, which always helps when you're running for president," explained Kronberg. "He can engage in the national conversation as the elder statesman of the Texas economic miracle, and reframe himself more easily than he can reframe himself as governor."
With several high profile Republicans such as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sitting on significant sums in their campaign accounts, many have been awaiting Perry's next move in order to see which statewide seats will be in play for the 2014 election.
The announcement that Texas Comptroller Susan Combs (R-Texas) won't be running for office in 2014 has already kick-started other statewide contests. As state senators and representatives consider running to fill her seat, the race for lieutenant governor is picking up steam as well. David Dewhurst's reelection will face primary challenges from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and additional challengers could still file.
"Essentially what everybody's been waiting for is for one slot to open which causes the musical chairs to cascade," said Kronberg, who adds this time there may be additional variables. "The Ted Cruz experience of not waiting your turn, jumping to the head of the line, has, I think, truly inspired a number of folks."
While the cascade has slowly begun, much still awaits Perry's decision. If there's one universal truth when it comes to Texas politics, it's that anything can happen between now and then.