Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is currently the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and presumably will continue in that role for another two years. But although she was already supposed to have retired according to earlier plans, speculation is that she may decide to seek another six years in the Senate when her seat comes up for a vote in 2012.
Hutchison, who followed John McCain (R-AZ) and the late Ted Stevens (R-AK) as the Republican leader in the committee, was planning to leave the Senate early in an effort to become governor of Texas. However, she was soundly defeated by incumbent Republican Rick Perry in the primaries, and during the course of that campaign, moved from retiring, to considering retiring, to serving out the remainder of her term.
One reason Hutchison is still in Washington is that many of her colleagues in the Senate requested her continued presence so that her seat would not be put at risk in a special election. However, that news came as a disappointment to a slate of Republicans eager to compete for the seat, and they are already positioning for a run in 2012 should the seat open up. According to Chris Cillizza of Washington Post’s Daily Fix, word is already circulating of a possible primary challenge to Hutchison should she opt to stand for re-election once again.
The state of the red-blue situation in 2012 is impossible to predict this far out, with today’s volatile electorate, but regardless of the general public mood, the fact remains that the Democrats are risking just about two seats in the Senate for every one that Republicans have to defend.
So Hutchison’s decision will not only affect GOP leadership in the most important committee in the Senate from a broadcast point of view, there is every chance that it will be about who takes the chair.