WASHINGTON – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison told a Texas magazine she will not seek re-election after this term and may leave the Senate as early as 2009, according to excerpts published on the magazine's Web blog on Monday.
Hutchison told Texas Monthly in an interview to be fully published in December that she would end her Senate career in 2012, whether or not she runs for governor.
Stepping down in two years "has to be considered," the Texas Republican senior senator is quoted as saying in the excerpts.
Hutchison declined an interview request from The Associated Press, but a spokesman for the senator confirmed the accuracy of the magazine excerpts.
If she does run for governor and wins, once she steps down as senator a temporary appointment would be made by the governor to fill the Senate seat until an election is held. It's conceivable she would get to make that interim selection if she's the incoming governor.
"Is it better for Texas for me to leave early and give someone else a chance to start building seniority before the class of 2013? I think it probably is," Hutchison said.
Hutchison said is not yet a candidate for governor, but would like to be.
"It's too early to be gearing up. I don't want to peak in 2007 for a 2010 race. Would I like to do it? Yes. A lot of things have to happen to make it a reality. You can't plan that far ahead with certainty," she said.
She said to finally commit she'd have to feel the time was right to leave the Senate, that she has an agenda and is "ready to go."
Hutchison was actively considering challenging Gov. Rick Perry, also a Republican, in 2006. But she backed out of what was likely to be a bruising and divisive race.
"It was not the right time for Texas and it was probably not the right time for the Republican Party to have that kind of challenge," she said.
But now, "there's not anyone who could really make a case to me that this would be divisive for the Republican Party in a way that would make me step back," she said.
When she was elected in 1993, Hutchison pledged to serve only two terms and declared herself a supporter of term limits.
But last year after she gave up the gubernatorial race and declared she was seeking a third term, Hutchison said she still supports term limits but wouldn't bind herself unless other senators also left after two terms.
Hutchison won a special election in 1993 for the Senate seat vacated by Lloyd Bentsen. She won her first full term the next year and was re-elected in 2000 and again in 2006.