Texas — Michael Williams announced a bid Thursday for Texas’ Senate seat. The Tea Party loves him, but can he overcome a tough primary to become the Senate’s lone black member? Williams talks to Benjamin Sarlin about his plan to win, his friendship with George W. Bush, and his trademark bowtie.
On Thursday, Williams declared his candidacy for Senate, entering what’s expected to be a crowded and competitive Republican primary to replace the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison. Political observers and early polls peg him as an underdog against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who is expected to enter the race and enjoys better name recognition and a large personal fortune to help back his campaign. But Williams’ unconventional background and strong grassroots outreach gives him unusually high potential to break out as a national Tea Party star.
The boots are easy enough to explain. “Well, I’m from Texas,” Williams told The Daily Beast in an interview, his bass-heavy drawl reverberating from the phone. The bowtie? It started as a bit of a prank while he was serving as a White House education official under President George H.W. Bush. After being called up to testify in front of a hostile audience of Senate Democrats, his staff suggested he try to cut the tension and stand out from the crowd with some offbeat neckwear. “I wanted to bring a light moment to the hearing, be humorous,” he said. “We had a very confrontational hearing anyway. But I had bought all these bow ties…” Soon he had a trademark.