Accomplished Sen. Hutchison proud of Senate term, regretful of failed gubernatorial primary

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 12 at 7:44 PM

DALLAS – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, gives her goodbye speech on the U.S. Senate floor next week.

In a final interview Wednesday with WFAA, she spoke of her accomplishments. But, in perhaps her most expansive comments yet regarding the subject, she also described her feelings about her failed 2010 primary run for governor against Rick Perry.

She regrets ofnot challenging him earlier.

Hutchison, first elected in 1993, will walk the halls on Capitol Hill for just a few more weeks.

"It's been such an honor to represent the greatest state in America," she said before heading off to the U.S. Senate floor. 

She's most proud of the homemaker IRA she co-sponsored into law and funding Texas military bases along with higher education research. But despite the successes, she's wistful about the office she really coveted. 

"I love the senate but I always wanted to be governor and I know that I would have been a governor for all Texans," she said.

However, by the end of the 2010 Republican primary for governor, Perry had framed her as a free spending Washington insider. She lost by almost 21 points. Looking back, she spoke about just how bad it was.

"It was a horrible experience," she reflected.  "I wasn't really able to run my campaign the way I would have like to have run as me. And I had a different approach and it wasn't right."

She stocked her campaign with a staff from out of state that was faced with the first challenging, rough race for her since the early 1990s. She was up against Perry, who's known for having sharp elbows and his well-seasoned political consultants.

She doesn't say why she didn't get the campaign she wanted. But she's clear she should've challenged Perry when he was weaker in 2006 or even 2002. 

"In hindsight, yeah, that would've been a better time," she said of 2006 when Perry won in a four-way race with just 39 percent of the vote. 

But Hutchison revealed she should've considered a challenge of Perry in his first election in 2002 after ascending to governor with the departure of George W. Bush. 

Hutchison was approaching the zenith of her popularity; just as her senate website proclaims, "In 2000, she was re-elected to a second full term with more votes than any other statewide candidate in Texas history." 

"Maybe I should have run right away after the lieutenant governor took over as governor, maybe I should have just run right then," she said of the 2002 possibility. "But I thought for the unity of the party," then her voiced trailed off.

By 2010, her moment had passed. Underscoring a law of politics, she noted, "Maybe I picked the wrong time, and we all know in politics timing is everything so, you know, a tinge of regret maybe, but with what I had as facts, I made the decision."

Her new life is in Dallas, where she will pursue business interests that she has yet to divulge. She mentions public speaking, working at a law firm and sitting on a corporate board.

But not the governor's mansion, where she always wanted to be.

Email bwatson@wfaa.com

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