Interesting that the announcements both come on the same day, isn’t it? Kind of tells you what he really wanted to do.

Even as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announces she’ll serve out the remainder of her term in the U.S. Senate, Mayor Tom Leppert tells the DMN that maybe he’ll stay here in Dallas and maybe he’ll run for mayor again when his term expires in May 2011. At this point, it’s not like he really has any better political job to run for, what with the race for governor already booked and the U.S. House reps in Dallas pretty entrenched in their districts. So Leppert’s best political bet would appear to be waiting to run for Hutchison’s seat when it opens in November 2012.

Leppert seems virtually unbeatable as mayor, if he runs again. Most people seem like the way he runs the city, and what’s not to like about a guy who enjoys spending lots of other peoples’ money? He does it with a smile, he works the crowd like a seasoned pro, and he stays on message: Dallas is the greatest place in the history of the world, and every project he touches will be the greatest (fill in the blank) darn deal there ever was. Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

But I hope Leppert does stick around for a few more years, because what’s ahead will be a good test of his actual leadership ability. With City Hall running out of money, we’re facing the unattractive options of more layoffs, higher taxes and further diminished city services. If the test of a leader’s ability is what he can do when the chips are down, we can learn a lot about Leppert if he stays in the job. And we can learn a lot about him if he decides to bail out just when the rubber is meeting the road, too.