Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his job, is planning to keep her U.S. Senate seat until after the state's March gubernatorial primary.
Hutchison, a Republican, plans to tell Republican women in a speech in Galveston on Saturday that she is stepping down in 2010 because there are too many important issues facing Congress for her to quit this fall as she had originally planned. Her campaign provided portions of the prepared remarks to The Associated Press on Friday.
"I realize this will keep me in the Senate past the primary election," Hutchison's speech says. "These issues are too important to leave the fight to a newly appointed freshman senator who will be selected in the midst of a political storm."
In the speech, she makes it "crystal clear" that she will leave the Senate after the primary regardless of whether she or Perry wins.
The senior Texas senator said she is needed in Washington to fight against Democratic proposals to limit carbon emissions and overhaul the health care system. She said the policy debates are too important to leave to a newcomer. Hutchison was elected to a six-year term in 2006, so her current term doesn't expire until January 2013.
Hutchison said over the summer she would leave the Senate in October or November to focus on the primary contest between her and Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history. But in recent weeks Hutchison has said the timing would depend on how much she's needed in Washington.
"We appreciate that Sen. Hutchison has taken the governor's advice and finally decided to make a decision to stay in Washington," Perry spokesman Mark Miner said in an e-mailed statement. "Hopefully this will allow her to be a full-time senator for the people of Texas."
The governor appeared at a press conference in Austin before the news broke about Hutchison's new timetable. He said the weighty policy issues in Washington required "all hands on deck 24-7."
Candidates from both parties have been lining up to run for Hutchison's seat without knowing precisely when she might step aside. If there's a Texas vacancy in the U.S. Senate, the governor appoints a replacement and then has the authority to call a special election for the job.
Hutchison still isn't saying when she will resign, but the 16-year Senate veteran says firmly in her speech that she is going to give up the seat in 2010.
"I will be resigning this Senate seat," Hutchison says in the speech. "For all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my Senate seat next year, make no mistake, this is going to happen."