By Richard Whittaker
When legislative veterans heard Paul Sadler was running for U.S. Senate, the name was familiar. A decade ago, Sadler was a force in Texas politics. As the Democratic state rep for Henderson and chair of the House Public Education Committee, he had tried to fix school finance when it was only a crisis and not a disaster. He stepped down in 2002, and has since practiced law and kept a low profile. Now he’s back, running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. Sadler considered his changed circumstances and said, “You just never know how life’s going to turn out, and you never know when the opportunities are going to be there.”
Sadler faces a run-off July 31 against Grady Yarbrough, a little-known retired schoolteacher who’s made an intermittent hobby of running for state office, as either a Republican or a Democrat (see box). The conventional presumption is that the GOP will hold the seat, and that the real election is happening in the Republican primary run-off between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, whose insurgent campaign forced a run-off, and now leads in recent polling, especially among voters who describe themselves as “very excited” by the race. There’s never been a July run-off before, so no one knows who – if much of anyone at all – will turn out for the July 31 vote – so that voter energy in Cruz’s base may well turn out to be key.