U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison formally entered the Texas governor's race Monday, taking on two-term incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the March primary.
Hutchison, filing her paperwork at the state Republican Party headquarters, threw jabs at Perry by suggesting he isn't as popular as she is with voters and chastising him for what she said is "cronyism and mismanagement" in his office. Perry filed last week to run for an unprecedented third term.
Hutchison said there is a revolving door between Perry's office and lobbyists and said she would push for ethics reform if elected.
"I think it's time for us to have term limits for governor," Hutchison said. "It is time that we have limits on campaign contributions so that people know that you're not going to be able to buy access with millions of dollars in campaign contributions."
Hutchison has co-sponsored legislation that would limit U.S. senators to no more than two six-year terms, but she is now in her third full term. Hutchison has said she will remain in the Senate while running.
Perry and Hutchison have been squaring off for months, even before both were officially in the race. Party activist Debra Medina also is running. The winner of the March 2 primary will face the Democratic nominee in November 2010.
Responding to Hutchison's filing, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the senator has spent 16 years in Washington and has lost touch with Texans through her "record of voting for bailouts, earmarks and record deficits." Miner said Texas is better off economically because of Perry's leadership in job creation and limiting spending.
Hutchison repeated her familiar campaign themes of protecting private property rights and improving education and the transportation system.
Speaking later Monday to about 1,200 people at the Texas Farm Bureau's annual convention in Fort Worth, Hutchison said that if she is elected governor, the government won't be able to take property for private purposes, underpay farmers and then turn it over to a foreign company. She said among her first acts as governor would be ensuring that lawmakers can consider private property legislation early in their 2011 session.
Hutchison also said that if she's elected, the Trans-Texas Corridor project will "really be dead." The farm bureau, which endorsed Hutchison, has opposed Perry's toll road network plan that threatens to take farm and ranch land.
Hutchison also said Monday she wants to work with Texas law enforcement officers to get them federally authorized training that could help them learn to properly question and handle suspects who may be illegal immigrants and to work with federal authorities in the deportation process.
That may have been a reference to the new Democratic candidate in the race, Houston Mayor Bill White, who supported local policies restricting police officers' ability to inquire about immigration status until a suspect has been arrested on a criminal charge.
Hutchison called White a credible candidate, and said she is the one who can triumph in the 2010 election.
"I am the conservative who can win this race," Hutchison said.
Asked about her strategy for defeating Perry in a Republican primary where social conservatives who tend to back him reliably show up to vote, Hutchison pointed to her record of winning general elections for Senate with more than 60 percent of the vote, compared with Perry's 39 percent in 2006 when he had three well-known competitors for governor.
"I think Republicans will look at winning, they will look at strengthening the Republican Party and they will see that I am the candidate who can win," Hutchison said.
Meanwhile, Perry's camp chided Hutchison for skipping an event at a World War II museum and campaigning instead. Hutchison's campaign said foggy weather prevented her plane from reaching the event in Fredericksburg.
Associated Press Writer Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth contributed to this report.