- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Wednesday she will resign from the Senate this fall to devote herself full time to challenging Gov. Rick Perry in next year’s March Republican primary.

In an interview with Houston’s WBAP radio talk-show host Mark Davis, Mrs. Hutchison said she will give up her seat sometime between October and November - a move her advisers have been recommending to show that she is serious about her bid for the governorship.

“I am trying to do everything that I can while I am in office to responsibly serve as a senator. … So I am trying to determine when is the time when I have done everything I can do to stop this health care takeover, cap and trade, which is the next thing coming down that I think is going to be so bad for Texas,” the four-term senator said in the interview. “I am trying to finish those things in a responsible way, and then I am coming home to try to give leadership to Texas.”

That would mean that her seat, which isn’t up until 2012, could be filled in a special election as early in May if the governor chose to call one.

But a spokesman for Mr. Perry’s campaign told The Washington Times he may want to fill the seat “sooner rather than later.”

“The goal would be to put someone in place to represent the state of Texas full time as soon as possible,” said spokesman Mark Miner.

Mr. Miner criticized Mrs. Hutchison’s decision, saying, “She is putting her own political ambitions above the needs of the people of Texas. The people of Texas elected her to be the U.S. senator for six years, and she is not doing what the people elected her to do.”

Political analysts say her move will cause problems for Republicans down the road in the Senate race.

“Hutchison’s decision might be good for her gubernatorial bid, but it isn’t good for Texas Republicans. Gov. Perry gets to appoint a successor, who would have to run in a special election at some point. There is much debate on when Perry would call that election,” said veteran elections analyst Jennifer E. Duffy at the Cook Political Report.

Meantime, “a number of candidates have been raising money and campaigning for the seat for months,” Ms. Duffy said.

“As of June 30, seven candidates - four Republicans, two Democrats and an independent - filed reports with the Federal Election Commission,” she said. “They include Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp, both Democrats, who have outraised Republicans significantly.”

But “the two Republicans who are most likely to get the [Senate] appointment, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott, are not actively raising money. Dewhurst is independently wealthy and could self-finance a race,” Ms. Duffy said.

“Hutchison’s decision to resign this fall puts Republicans in a bind. Democrats will have a strong, well-funded candidate and Republicans will have to fight to keep their hold on the seat. It will be an expensive proposition for the national party,” she said.

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