Sen. Hutchison to Madame Guv?
Hutchison has said she'd rather be governor than senator, and is looking hard at running for the job in 2010.
After all, it's one of one, not one of 100, and comes with a house, transportation, a security detail, an airplane, and a big podium. It's a job her husband Ray sought in the 1978 Republican primary, only to be drummed by multimillionaire Bill Clements.
Kay had strongly hinted she'd run for governor in 2002 and 2006, but backed off both times, rather than take on Gov. Rick Perry in a divisive Republican primary bloodbath. A considerable number of observers thought she could have beaten Perry in either election.
She was easily re-elected to the Senate in 2006, with 61.7 percent. More than 900,000 more people voted for her for Senate than voted for Perry for governor. He won with just 39 percent.
Her declaration that this will be her last Senate term came during a recent interview with
Texas Monthly Editor Evan Smith. Hutchison, who was elected to the Senate in a 1993 special election, even indicated she might quit the Senate as early as 2009, to give her successor a head start on seniority.
Of course, if she runs for governor, it'll be an easier campaign if she isn't concerned about having to rush back to Washington to cast votes.
In addition, now that the Republicans are in a minority in the Senate, and expected to be even more minor after the 2008 elections, Hutchison will be without the power that goes with majority party status.
Even though Perry is posturing like he might make another run, another reason Hutchison may want to finally run for governor is that the clock's ticking. She's eligible for Medicare on July 22, when she'll turn 65. If she is elected governor, she'll be 69 when she assumes office - just four months younger than Republican Clements was when he was inaugurated for his second term in 1987.
Her hubby of almost 30 years, Ray, is 75. They adopted toddlers Houston and Bailey in 2001. Ray Hutchison has two grown daughters from his first marriage.
Whether Hutchison runs for governor or not, if she resigns her seat in 2009, her initial successor will be appointed by the governor - presumably Perry - to serve until a special election for the remainder of the term is held a few weeks later.
That election could attract several candidates. When then-state Treasurer Hutchison won the special election in 1993, it was from a field of 24, including five Democrats, and 10 Republicans -- including two sitting congressmen - and everything but a partridge in a pear tree.
There could possibly be some elbowing among Republicans to get Perry to appoint them as the interim senator, in hopes of getting a leg up for the special election - possibly other GOP officeholders in the ambition pipeline, like Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Comptroller Susan Combs.
But the appointment is no guarantee of going on to win the special election. It may well attract some politicians that Perry had passed over, plus possibly Democrats like state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, who ran statewide for attorney general in 2002, and could make a run without having to give up their current office unless they won.
For the record, the appointee to fill the vacancy has never gone on to be elected the senator.
Texas has had four special elections to fill Senate vacancies:.
* In 1941, Gov. W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel appointed Andrew Houston, 87, the youngest son of Sam Houston, to fill the seat. Houston died two days before the special election, which O'Daniel won himself, nosing out then-U.S. Rep. Lyndon Johnson.
* In 1957, then-Gov. Allan Shivers named Dallas businessman William Blakley ((cq)) as interim senator, but he didn't run in the special election, which Ralph Yarborough won.
* In 1961, then-Gov. Price Daniel Sr. also named Blakley. Though Blakley ran in the special election that time, he was narrowly beaten in a runoff by Republican John Tower.
* In 1993, then-Gov. Ann Richards appointed Democrat Bob Krueger. But then Hutchison handily whipped him in the special election runoff.
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Until Hutchison indicated she'd probably quit early, there had seemed a remote possibility she might actually appoint her Senate successor.
If she runs for governor and wins, and doesn't resign her Senate seat before the inauguration, she would automatically resign from the Senate upon being sworn in as governor. As governor, she could then appoint someone to fill the Senate vacancy she created.
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