DALLAS - Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's future is no longer a question mark. She stunned supporters Thursday revealing she won't run for reelection next year.
Hutchison has represented Texas in the U.S. Senate for 17 years. She is the highest ranking female senator, and lost her bid for the Republican nomination for governor last year.
In a letter released Thursday, Hutchison said she planned to leave sooner, but was persuaded to stay. She said she felt it was her duty to fight massive spending that she said increased the national debt, the government takeover of health care and the growth of federal bureaucracy.
Sen. Hutchison said she now plans to focus on family after her term ends in 2013
Hutchison was dealt a crushing defeat last March when she tried to move from the U.S. Capitol to the Texas Governor's Mansion, challenging Gov. Rick Perry for the job. But, after receiving just 30 percent of the vote, she went back on repeated promises to resign from the Senate.
"Let me be crystal clear about one thing," she said in March of 2010. "I will be resigning my Senate seat."
"I really did intend to leave, and for my family," she said. "It would really be better personally for me to come home."
Last year's primary for governor turned out to be Hutchison's last campaign after all.
Finally ending the speculation about her future, she said she won't run again in 2012, a decision she said she reached in 2006.
Her announcement jump starts the scramble again for her seat, especially among Republican candidates. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he fully intends to explore running.
Other Republicans expected to pursue Hutchison's seat include Texas Railroad commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has also indicated he would look into running and promises an announcement of his plans in a few weeks.
Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams never really paused his campaign.
Hutchison said she won't likely endorse a candidate in the GOP primary in March 2012, but doesn't rule it out.
Over the next two years she'll focus on fighting government spending.
Hutchison said she will then return to the private sector after her term ends in early 2013 and enjoy her children who are middle school age and living in Dallas.