- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

DALLAS — Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, in a surprise move, said Friday night she would seek a third term in the U.S. Senate next year, rather than return to Texas to oppose Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican.

Mrs. Hutchison, 61, the former state treasurer and Texas House member, apparently made her decision after a meeting with top advisers here Friday, after months of speculation and considerable concern within the Texas Republican Party.

Earlier in the day, she had told reporters her decision was not imminent, and said it would probably not come until after the Legislature passed a school-finance bill in an expected special session later this month.

“Senator Hutchison has been a true champion for Texas in Washington. We were both elected to statewide office in 1990, and we share many of the same supporters and friends, and together we will continue to fight for a better future for our children,” Mr. Perry said.

The senator’s decision overshadowed yesterday’s announcement — though expected — that state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn would announce her opposition to Mr. Perry in the 2006 Republican primary and Mr. Perry’s announcement that he was calling a special session of the Legislature to try to come up with school-financing legislation.

The senator’s announcement seems certain to solidify her nationally at a time when Republican women seem poised for higher office. Mrs. Hutchison is vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and with her high public profile she has been touted as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2008.

But some Texans see the hand of President Bush in Friday’s quick move. Mr. Bush has strongly backed his successor in Austin, and because of the Legislature’s lackluster performance in failing to pass school funding the past three tries, Mr. Perry’s strength appears to have eroded.

Mrs. Hutchison had hired a veteran campaigner, Terry Sullivan, as her campaign manager and had begun to speak more about state politics. Even Friday morning at a speech in Plano, she criticized Mr. Perry’s failure to move the Legislature to get the controversial school-funding problem solved.

Some close to the Hutchison campaign, however, said that while the perception was that the senator would easily be able to match Mr. Perry in campaign funding, in recent weeks several big-money donors hinted they opposed her running for governor because it would weaken the party in the state, not just for 2006, but beyond.

The Perry camp had in recent weeks moved strongly to blunt a Hutchison tide. On one occasion, it hired a camera crew to film Mrs. Hutchison appearing with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, at a Washington function, which quickly showed up on the Internet.

While both the governor and senator share a conservative base, Mrs. Hutchison has often alienated some in the Republican ranks by a more centrist position on abortion — a factor Perry campaign officials openly vowed to exploit as the race loomed.

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