BREAKING NEWS & EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
HOUSTON--Barbara Ann Radnofsky (D-Houston) made it official Monday that she will seek the Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. Senate in 2006.
Radnofsky, 48, officially declared her candidacy today after sending the necessary paperwork to the United States Senate formalizing her intentions. Candidates for U.S. Senate are required to file a declaration of their intentions with that body. Radnofsky mailed the documents today after formally incorporating her campaign committee with the Texas Secretary of State late last week. Radnofsky is the first person in Texas to formally declare their intentions regarding a 2006 run for any position.
Though Radnofsky has taken the necessary steps to formalize her candidacy at the federal level, she won't be able to officially file for the Texas Democratic Primary until December of this year.
Radnofsky first came up on the political radar last year, when she began an exploratory campaign. Most Texas Democrats were first exposed to Radnofsky during the Texas Democratic Party's State Convention last June, where she held a meet-and-greet and delivered a speech seconding the nomination of State Party Chairman Charles Soechting, a longtime friend, for a full term as the head of the party.
In an exclusive interview with this writer Monday night, Radnofsky said she was excited to launch her campaign, which she says is a grassroots effort that will focus on issues important to the people of Texas.
"After a year of touring our state and meeting with real people and studying the issues they face everyday, I have decided to formally become a candidate for United States Senator," Radnofsky said.
During her year of exploration, Radnofsky traveled the state spending a great deal of meeting with people, government officials and leaders in business in industry, as well as raising thousands on behalf of other Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
In preparation for entering a primary that is more than a year away, Radnofsky said she believes 2006 is a great time to run.
"I believe Texas is ready for a Democratic senator who will focus on making our economy stronger and putting Americans back to work, making our country secure, and ensuring that our government is the best in the world," she noted.
A partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson and Elkins, volunteer and community leader, Radnofsky notes that serving the citizens of Texas is something close to her heart.
"Public service has always been a part of my life, and I believe the United States Senate is the place where I can best serve the people of Texas. I know how to represent and fight for people. I know how to bring people together, which is what I have done for many years as a mediator and a volunteer teacher," she said.
Radnofsky said her experience--especially as a mediator--has prepared to become part of the solution to problems plaguing the Beltway.
"Washington is choked by conflict and partisanship. This has been a particular problem in Congress. I want to focus on problem-solving and solutions because I know I can make a difference," she noted.
"I think people see the need for a problem-solver in the boxing ring that Washington has become," she continued.
Though Radnofsky knows she faces a long road ahead, she notes she is very thankful to the many people who have encouraged her to seek public office.
"Serving as a United States Senator is an awesome responsibility, and I am gratified that so many people across Texas have encouraged me to seek this position. Texans realize we need new ideas and new faces to tackle tough issues like healthcare. I am deeply humbled and extremely proud to enter this race and prepare to do the people's work," she noted.
As a 'people's candidate,' Radnofsky notes she is running very much a "grassroots" organization, having hired no political consultants. Radnofsky noted it is particularly important to her to ensure that her campaign and fund-raising are conducted with dignity given the current political climate in the state.
"I'm able to do this due to many people who've helped me this past year as I've traveled the state and learned. I've got a nearly -all-volunteer organization, with a professional fundraiser who is enthusiastic, decent, and honest," she said.
Radnofsky confirmed that she will remain a partner with V&E while she campaigns, and will continue her law and mediation practice.
Though a political novice when it comes to electoral politics, Radnofsky--a partner in the prestigious Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins--is no light-weight. A National Merit Scholar, she holds a B.A. magna cum laude from the University of Houston (which she entered at age 16) and a Doctor of Jurisprudence with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law. With more than 140 publications and speeches to her credit in the U.S. and abroad, Radnofsky has also been named Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas. All this has helped her earn the catch phrase, "tough name, smart dame," which she used on the stump last year.
In addition, she has a lengthy record of community service including as a Board Member of the Friends World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, on which she serves at the request of the discoverer of the AIDS virus, Professor Luc Montagnier. She also serves as vice chair of the Anti-Defamation League for the Southwest Region as well as a Board Member of the Friends of the Texas Medical Center Library. She's taught mediation to public school, Upward Bound, and developmentally disabled students. Her husband, Ed Supkis, is a medical doctor.
Her 25-year legal career has seen her gain certification in Personal Injury Trial Law and Civil Trial law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She has served as lead counsel in trials ranging from commercial dispute and medical malpractice to contractual indemnity, false arrest and malicious prosecution. From 2001 to 2003, she served as Chairman of the American Bar Association's Managed Care Litigation Section Subcommittee.
THE 2006 RACE
When Radnofsky announces her candidacy, she will be the first person in either party to formally announce a 2006 candidacy for U.S. Senate. Currently, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is toying with a run for governor against fellow Republican Rick Perry, though some Austin insiders say Hutchison will retire to spend more time with her young children rather than face the possibility of enduring a primary which is sure to be a crippling blood-bath for both.
Last summer, Congressman Chris Bell (D-Houston), the first casualty of the 2003 redistricting plan when he lost to Houston justice of the peace Al Green in the Democratic Primary, was reportedly considering a run for Senate, as were U.S. Congressmen Jim Turner. Turner declined to seek re-election in 2004. Late last year, however, Bell announced he was considering forming an exploratory committee to run for governor. Turner is reportedly also considering such a run.
Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, however, remains a wildcard. He lost the race for Senate in 2002 to then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn. Late last year, he announced he would seek the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. However, this week he withdrew to support former U.S. Congressman Martin Frost (D-Oak Cliff).
Former U.S. Congressman Ken Bentsen (D-Houston), nephew of former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, is also a possible contender for the Senate seat. Last Fall, former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes was also mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, but that's unlikely.
On the Republican side, the scenarios regarding who may run for the seat border on dizzying. Aside from Hutchison staying where she is in the Senate, one scenario favored by many Republicans has Hutchison retiring and not running against Perry, and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is also considering a run against Perry, dropping out of that race to seek the Lt. Governor's position held by David Dewhurst. Dewhurst would in turn run for Senate, the position he reportedly favored in 2002 over the one he holds now. Still others favor Dewhurst staying where he is and the outspoken Strayhorn or AG Greg Abbott making a run for Senate.
Speculation regarding which Republicans may seek the U.S. Senate seat in 2006 are almost as dizzying as speculation surrounding which Democrats will run for Governor. Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez, who lost to Perry in 2002; former Texas Comptroller John Sharp (who has lost two races in a row for Lt. Governor); Dallas Mayor Laura Miller; Former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson (who lost to Greg Abbot in the AG's race in 2002); Austin advertising magnate Roy Spence; and Ken Bentsen are all possibilities along with Bell and Turner.