Senator pushes conservative agenda
Republican U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison does not hesitate to reveal a list of what she considers failures in Rick Perry’s tenure as governor.
“Rick Perry raised billions in taxes on Texas businesses, tried to mandate HPV vaccines for young girls and increased the size of the state budget by more than 80 percent,” said Hutchison, who will oppose Perry and Debra Medina in the March 2 gubernatorial primary.
Perry hasn’t remained in office for 10 years without a long list of supporters, but Hutchison isn’t one of them.
“The current governor will be remembered less for what he did for the average Texan, and more for what he tried to do,” Hutchison said.
Perry said in a televised debate Jan. 30 in Dallas that Hutchison chose to “continue Roe v. Wade,” the landmark Supreme Court decision that allowed women the right to terminate their pregnancy.
Hutchison did affirm her support for Roe v. Wade in 2003, according to Vote Smart. She also voted in 2007 to increase federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, another contentious issue for pro-life advocates.
Hutchison defended her conservative record by citing positive ratings from pro-life groups, the National Rifle Association and her efforts to quadruple the number of Border Patrol agents.
Hutchison stressed her plans for cooperation and to “reach out to legislatures,” but stopped shy of describing herself as a more moderate option.
“I am proud of my conservative record, and my conservative credentials take a back seat to no one,” Hutchison said.
Among her goals as governor, Hutchison mentioned strengthening Texas’ borders, reforming in-state transportation planning and protecting private property rights through eminent domain reform. But Hutchison said education was a primary reason she chose to run.
“My main priorities as governor will include increasing educational opportunities for young Texans through improved public education and greater availability of affordable higher education,” Hutchison said. “I have outlined a comprehensive plan to tackle the dropout problem head on.”
Hutchison’s goals aren’t lost on newspaper editorial boards either. Hutchison swept the endorsements from Texas’ four largest metropolitan newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle. She also has the endorsements of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George H. W. Bush.
A senator since 1993, Hutchison is Texas’ first and only female senator and according to the U.S. Senate’s Web site, the most senior female Republican currently in office.
Hutchison, never having received less than 60 percent of the vote in her previous re-election campaigns, had remained fairly unchallenged. Now, she finds herself in unfamiliar territory against Perry.
UH political science professor Richard Murray said, despite being a moderate candidate more likely to work across party lines, Hutchison has been put on the defensive as being a “country club Republican” who’s out of touch with the conservative base.
“A lot of social conservatives and Second Amendment proponents just don’t see her as being passionate about their issues. They don’t fully trust her,” said Murray, director of the UH Center Survey Research Institute. “He’s targeted her on issues like abortion, where she has some vulnerability, and it’s gotten her into the kind of race that she hoped to avoid. She’s a better candidate running in the center, but that doesn’t work very well in a Texas primary.”
A runoff election will occur if none of the candidates achieve at least 50 percent of the vote, something Murray described as a possibility. But he said Hutchison first needs a shift in her campaign strategy.
“Hutchison hasn’t articulated a compelling message about why we should get rid of (Perry) and put herself in the job. It’s not going to be easy for her to make up this difference,” Murray said.