Mark Davis

The governors of our largest states tend to be big players in national news through the years, but there is something about the office of Governor of Texas that has stayed front-of-mind for a generation.

Our last governor became a two-term President. Our current governor ran once, and may run yet again after he leaves office in January 2015. There’s no telling what our next governor will do, but the road to that election is going to get a ton of national attention.

So here’s an early guide to what you can expect.

Twenty years ago, George W. Bush was building momentum toward unseating Ann Richards. His 1994 win opened an era in which no Democrat has occupied any statewide office since.

When Bush left Austin after winning the presidency, Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry was sworn into an office he has held for a record-breaking 13-plus years.

In that time, he has become a champion for state’s rights and a singular example of how to protect a state from the poisonous Obama agenda. That track record should have led to a strong presidential run, but, well, we know how that worked out. By the time 2016 campaigns are taking shape, memories of the “oops” moment will have faded, and Perry will be enjoying private life after one of the most enviable gubernatorial stints in recent history. It is not wise to underestimate his stock.

But who will be Perry’s successor in Texas?

For a good while, the answer has seemed obvious: Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose decade of courageous service has vaulted him to statewide political rock star status.

The moment he announced his candidacy for Governor in July, it would not have been unreasonable to send out the order for engraved inauguration invitations.

But there is a path that must be traveled to that destination, and two challenges for Abbott to overcome.

First is a primary opponent who would deserve frontrunner status under any other circumstance.

Remember those heady days of 1994, when the Bush ascendancy ushered in total statewide GOP control in Texas? The state party chairman at that time was Tom Pauken, whose service in Vietnam and the Reagan administration gave him an impressive biography well before his fortieth birthday.

Now 69, Pauken is valued as a warrior who helped solidify conservative values in Texas over a long career in the private and public sector, most recently as chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission.

But in a matchup against Abbott, the initial assessments were that even his enviable record would not add up to sufficient name recognition and fundraising.