Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced today that she will retire at the end of her current term, quashing speculation that she would run for a fourth full term in the U.S. Senate.
In an open letter to Texans, Hutchison said she wanted to live "full-time in Texas with my family" and was "forever grateful for the privilege of working for you in the United States Senate."
Hutchison's announcement will set off a wild scramble for the Senate seat the Dallas Republican first won in a 1993 special election against interim Sen. Bob Krueger, D-New Braunfels.
Hutchison said her early announcement "should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be."
She pledged to continue carrying out her duties for the next two years "with the same vigor that I have employed during my Senate service."
Hutchison pledged to use her remaining time in the Senate "to fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt, the government takeover of our health care system, and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy."
Oh just go ahead and walk away now, Kay.
Hutchison had promised to resign from her seat when she announced her 2010 primary challenge against Republican Gov. Rick Perry, but she changed her mind during the campaign.
"I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state," she said.
The disadvantage was you sticking around, honey.
A large field of candidates is likely to seek the seat held for the past four decades by Hutchison and legendary Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Houston.
Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp and former Houston Mayor Bill White are potential Democratic prospects. Republicans who have expressed interest in the seat include Secretary of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and state Sen. Florence Shapiro. Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has not announced his plans but is considered a strong contender for the job. (emphasis mine)
Dewhurst has responded that he is too focused on the legislative session to concentrate on this right now. He can only think about one thing at a time, after all.
Update: Dewhurst wants the job so bad he's started imitating Kay's shilly-shally...
Less than three hours after telling a luncheon with the Capitol news media that he wouldn't think of running for the U.S. Senate until after the Texas Legislature ends in May, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced that he will consider running.
The Williams twins are all in already. I anticipate that the two Republican ladies will jump in when they think the water is fine. Sharp has clearly stated his intentions as far back as March of 2010 ...
I want to thank everybody who came to support me in San Antonio last night. You confirmed to me that I am ready to win this Senate seat tomorrow, or in 2012. Thanks again, and I hope to see all of you again soon.
... but I don't think White will make this race. (Update: Sure enough, he declines.) The Perry campaign accomplished a real smear job on him -- as they did KBH in the primary -- and I just don't think he wants that job anyway. No word from 2006 Democratic nominee Barbara Radnofsky on whether she will enter the fray.
Keep in mind the Green Party has ballot access and will field a candidate in this contest.
Other Republicans I expect will likely make a go are state Sen. Dan Patrick. His Texas radio network gives him much more name recognition than many would think, and he is a Tea Party darling. People like Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and solicitor general Ted Cruz are longshots due to low name recognition and a lack of craziness that the TP prefers.
There may be a few surprise candidates on both sides but nobody who might be considered completely unpredictable. It's nice to see that the 2012 campaign has officially kicked off.
Update: the National Journal drops Chet Edwards' name, and The Hill's Brent Budowsky suggests San Antonio mayor Joaquin Castro. Both men are well and good but don't hold much chance at gaining either the nomination nor the seat.