Hutchison to stay in Senate

After Kay Bailey Hutchison announced that she would run for the Republican nomination for governor in Texas, she also promised that she would resign from the Senate after the primaries.  Having lost that primary rather badly to popular incumbent Rick Perry — and after taking quite a beating in the race — some wondered whether Hutchison would leave public life altogether.  According to National Journal, Hutchison will finish her current term in the Senate:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will announce today she has decided to serve out the remainder of her term, according to a source familiar with Hutchison’s plans.

The move is a reversal of a pledge Hutchison made to step down as she challenged Gov. Rick Perry (R) earlier this year. Hutchison lost an early March primary against Perry by a surprisingly wide margin.

Hutchison originally said she would step down sometime last fall, before putting off her resignation thanks to the health care debate. Now that the health care debate is over, House GOPers in TX have urged Hutchison to reconsider in a letter sent to the incumbent last week.

The move cancels what would have been a rather perilous special election this November.  Republicans had a half-dozen serious candidates already campaigning for the spot, while Democrats had the former mayor of Houston, Bill White, who may have been able to win in a crowded field.  The special election looked like it might alleviate the Democrats’ expected midterm losses on the national level, and winning a Texas Senate seat would have been quite a bragging coup for the DSCC.  With Hutchison’s decision to stay, the GOP has one less worry in November, which allows them to focus on winning seats held by Democrats rather than playing defense.

It’s good for the Senate GOP caucus as well.  While Hutchison’s move to the center got plenty of focus during the gubernatorial campaign, she has been firm on conservative positions in the 111th Congress.  Hutchison never gave any indication that she would give an inch towards the kind of health-care industry takeover we saw in ObamaCare.  Hutchison has fought against the cap-and-trade bill that will likely get some attention in the waning days of this session.  She’s also been pretty good on immigration reform.  Hutchison is far more useful in office for the next two years than out, especially if the alternative is White.

Update: White dropped out of this race to run against Perry, but I think the point still stands — the Democrats could have coalesced around one candidate while Republicans split the vote on the Right.  Now they don’t have to worry about it and can go through a normal primary process in 2012.  Thanks to R.J. for the reminder.

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