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hance

Kent Hance

Kent Ronald Hance (born November 14, 1942, in Dimmitt in Castro County, Texas) is a lobbyist and lawyer who was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from West Texas, having served from 1979 to 1985. After his congressional service, he switched to the Republican Party. As a conservative Democrat, Hance represented the 19th Congressional District, which then stretched from Midland and Odessa to Lubbock.

Hance was chosen to succeed David Smith as the chancellor of the Texas Tech University System in Lubbock. He is taking a leave of absence from his Austin law firm Hance, Scarborough, Wright, Ginsberg and Brusilow but will continue to sit on profit and nonprofit boards and commissions while at the helm of Texas Tech. He assumed his duties on December 1, 2006. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal quoted Tech board chairman Rick Francis: "The regents believed Hance could further the goals that we had for our chancellor, in terms of energizing our alumni, and those legislators in both Austin and Washington, D.C., and provide the vision that we need for the future."

Early years and election to Congress

Hance obtained his bachelor of business administration degree from Texas Tech University in 1965 where he was also a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He later went to law school at the University of Texas at Austin. After law school, he was admitted to the Texas bar and in 1968 became a practicing attorney in Lubbock. During this period, he was also a law professor at Texas Tech University from 1968 until 1973.

In 1972, Hance ran for the Texas Senate and defeated incumbent H.J. "Doc" Blanchard in the 1972 primary. His campaign at the beginning seemed doomed to failure, but Hance quickly made connection with voters in his spawling west Texas district.

He served in the Senate from 1973 to 1978, when he ran successfully as a Democrat for the 19th Congressional District. The seat had been held for a generation by popular Democrat George H. Mahon, long-time chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Hance's opponent in the general election was a young Republican businessman from Midland, George W. Bush. The 19th had long been one of the more conservative areas of Texas, and this conservative trend should have favored Bush. However, Hance portrayed Bush as "not a real Texan" because of his privileged upbringing and Yale education. Hance won by seven points--the only time Bush was ever defeated in an election. Hance later said in an interview that after that election, Bush vowed that "he wasn't going to be out-Christianed or out-good-old-boyed again," and developed the folksy image that eventually carried him to the White House. Hance was reelected two times.

Hance wore his party ties very loosely and compiled a very conservative voting record even by Texas Democratic standards. His views seemed to mirror those of his district. Although the 19th had become increasingly Republican at the national level (it hasn't supported a Democrat for president since 1964), conservative Democrats continued to represent much of the region at the state level well into the 1990s. He did not run for a fourth term in 1984 opting instead to seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Republican John G. Tower. Hance announced within hours of Tower's withdrawal that he would run for the Senate. He was very narrowly defeated by the most liberal candidate in the race, State Senator Lloyd Doggett of Austin, who was later a long-term Democratic congressman. Hance had received a great deal of support from conservative Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for him in the race, since Hance had run on a conservative platform. However, immediately upon losing to Doggett, Hance endorsed the liberal Doggett, an action which was viewed very unfavorably by the Republicans who had supported Hance.

Geography also played a role in Hance's loss to Doggett; a West Texan has never been elected to the Senate. Hance was succeeded in the U.S. House by a young Republican, Larry Combest, a former aide to Senator Tower.

Hance switches parties

Hance himself became a Republican in 1985. In 1986, he unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Instead, the Republicans called former Governor Bill Clements out of retirement for the right to challenge Democratic Governor Mark White. In 1988, Hance was a Texas delegate to his first ever Republican National Convention, which met in New Orleans.

In 1987, Clements appointed his former intraparty rival Hance to a vacancy on the Texas Railroad Commission. The next year Hance was elected as a Republican to the commission on the coattails of presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, father of the young man Hance had defeated for Congress ten years earlier. He left the Railroad Commission in 1990, once again to seek the GOP nomination for governor but was heavily defeated in the primary by another West Texan, controversial Midland businessman Clayton Williams. In the primary against Williams, Hance finished second but with only 15 percent of the ballots.

In 2004, against the wishes of Governor Rick Perry, Hance assisted Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith in the latter's unsuccessful bid for renomination in the Republican primary.

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