Sen. Hutchison may be leaving office early

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, will not seek reelection in 2012 and is considering leaving office early to pursue a 2010 bid to be the next governor of Texas.

In an interview with Texas Monthly magazine, Hutchison said she has “been talking to people quietly” about the possibility of a 2010 bid, but stated that she has not made a commitment to run.

“I don’t want to peak in 2007 for a 2010 race,” said Hutchison, who currently serves as the chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee. “Would I like to do it? Yes.”

Hutchison said regardless of whether she runs for governor, she will not seek reelection for her Senate seat in 2012. She said she is considering leaving Capitol Hill as early as 2009.

“So is it better for Texas for me to leave early and give someone else a chance to start building seniority before the class of 2013? I think it probably is,” Hutchison added.

Hutchison’s office confirmed the accuracy of her comments, and she told reporters Tuesday that resigning to give “someone a lead on seniority is an option if I run for governor.”

Current three-term Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) hasn’t revealed whether he will seek another term. But if he chooses to run, it could set up a primary battle with Hutchison.

Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (Ariz.), who said he sat next to Hutchison at Tuesday’s policy lunch, suggested she would not likely leave the Senate before her term expires.

“She said that she’d said [to the magazine] no more than what she said during her campaign: She won’t run again.”
Hutchison’s plans to consider a gubernatorial run do not come as a surprise. She had long been considered a likely candidate for the governor’s mansion in Austin. In 2006, she won reelection to a fourth term in the Senate with 62 percent of the vote.

But her announcement gives both parties plenty of time to recruit candidates for her Senate seat, and could open up a fight within the GOP conference for her leadership post and spot on key committees, such as Appropriations and Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) dismissed suggestions that Hutchison’s announcement was a sign of continued troubles for Republicans.

“This is a sign that she loves her state,” Lott said.

Elana Schor contributed to this story.