Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate Career: A Blessing or a Curse?

Kay Bailey Hutchison has a chance to oust Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, because she is a U.S. senator. However, that ...
by | September 28, 2009
 

Kay Bailey Hutchison has a chance to oust Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, because she is a U.S. senator. However, that blessing could also be a curse in the Republican primary between Hutchison and Perry, as the Austin American-Statesman notes:

It's often said that in Washington, there are three parties: Republicans, Democrats and Appropriators.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a Republican, but she's also an appropriator -- a member of the Senate committee that decides how to spend federal dollars.

Hutchison's seat on the Appropriations Committee has paid extraordinary political benefits because she can point to research labs, water lines and traffic lanes all over the state that she helped build.

But if there is a political downside to seeking such projects, Hutchison is about to meet it head-on. Gov. Rick Perry, whom she is challenging in the March Republican primary, is determined to paint her as a free-spending product of Washington. During Hutchison's formal announcement tour in August, Perry supporters stood outside venues wearing pig noses -- a not-so-subtle suggestion that the projects she pursues are little more than pork.

In each of the last two election cycles, Republican congressmen have struggled to win gubernatorial elections. People like Kenny Hulshof in Missouri, Bob Beauprez in Colorado and Ernest Istook in Oklahoma -- popular G.O.P. congressmen in their own districts -- flamed out spectacularly when they tried for the governor's office.

Obviously, the reason Republican congressmen struggled in gubernatorial elections in 2006 and 2008 is the same reason Republican congressmen struggled in congressional races in those years. Washington, D.C. wasn't very popular and Republicans weren't very popular. Republicans from Washington, D.C., even ones with a record of electoral success, made about the worst possible candidates.

In that context, 2010 is shaping up to be an interesting year. Voters still seem angry at Washington, but their anger is now directed at Democrats as much as Republicans.

As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if both Republican and Democratic congressmen struggle when running for governor next year. One early sign of that would be if Hutchison flounders against Perry.

Then again, maybe I'm reading too much into Congress' poor poll numbers. When was the last time Washington was actually a popular place?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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