POLITICS -- January 13, 2011 at 5:09 PM ET
Veteran Texas Senator to Retire in 2012
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010 (Getty Images)
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, announced Thursday that she will not run for a fifth term in 2012, leaving a wide-open Republican primary.
Hutchison, who was first elected in 1993 and is the senior senator from the state, was rumored to be retiring last year. In a letter to supporters, she explained her decision to wait until 2012.
"I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state. The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period," she wrote.
Hutchison challenged Gov. Rick Perry for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, but lost by about 20 percentage points. Perry went on to win the 2010 general election for a third term in office.
This is the first retirement of the 2012 Senate election cycle, in which 33 seats will be up for reelection.
"The 2010 cycle was full of surprises and it turns out 2012 will have some twists and turns as well: the first Senate retirement is a Republican. We look forward to running a competitive race in Texas as the Lone Star state is now one of several Democratic pick-up opportunities next November," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Eric Schultz.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Hutchison's service in the Senate.
"Kay is a trusted advisor and friend, a senator who always serves Texas first. Fortunately, she's not leaving soon. While I'm confident she'll continue to be a powerful advocate for her state and nation over the next two years, the Senate will miss her strength and energy when she leaves," he said in a statement.
Because this will be an open seat, it should, theoretically, be a bit easier for Democrats to make competitive. Texas Democrats, however, haven't held the governor's mansion since 1995, when George W. Bush became governor, or held a Senate seat since 1993, when Hutchison won a special election.
The 2012 Senate map currently favors Republicans, as 23 Democratic (included independents who vote with the Democrats) senators have to defend their seats, compared to only 10 on the Republican side.
The Dallas Morning News has details on which Republicans and Democrats might vie for her spot:
Likely Republican contenders to succeed her include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, state Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, Railroad Commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams, Weatherford car dealer Roger Williams, and Ted Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general and candidate for state attorney general.
Possible Democratic contenders include former Texas Comptroller John Sharp and former Houston mayor Bill White.
Hutchison, the first woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, was a consistently reliable Republican vote. Most recently, in the lame-duck session of Congress, she opposed ending debate on the START nuclear treaty, voted against repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and supported the Obama-GOP tax cut compromise that extended the Bush tax cuts by two years.
You can see a detailed list of her voting record here.