Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Staying in Washington

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, is reneging on her pledge to resign from the Senate, and will instead complete her current term, which runs until 2013.

She lost her party's primary for governor earlier this year. Hutchison's plan to resign was originally intended to free her up to campaign in that election. When it became increasingly obvious that she couldn't win the gubernatorial primary, she maintained that she would still resign, regardless of the outcome of the primary. Immediately after the March 2 primary, there were signs that Hutchison was backpedalling from her decision.

The senator has made the same discovery that other Washington politicians have made over the years, i.e., that their continued presence in the capital is absolutely vital for the future of the country.

I'm reminded of the late Democratic senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, who, when he was first elected in 1990, pledge to serve no more than two terms. By 2002, it was objectively clear to Wellstone that he was too important to leave the Senate. He was engaged in a tight battle for reelection when he died in a plane crash in October 2002.

Hutchison has not said anything about plans for a reelection campaign in 2012. If she does run, it will be interesting to see whether she faces as strong a challenge as Wellstone did, from Republicans or Democrats or both.

She gets some cover from Republican Senate colleagues, and from her erstwhile opponent, Governor Rick Perry, who have urged her to remain in the Senate. They want a secure hold on all of their current 41 seats, as they seem likely to get up into the high 40s in this year's midterm elections, with a possibility, though not a probability, of regaining the majority they lost in 2006.

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