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Jones was elected to three terms in the state House of Representatives before being appointed to the Texas Railroad Commission in 2005. A year later, she won election to a full term as commissioner. Roger Williams is a small-businessman and was appointed secretary of state in 2005. Considered a top fundraiser in the state, he’s worked on several campaigns for President George W. Bush and Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
On the Democratic side, former state Comptroller John Sharp and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill White are currently the only two names being floated. White said Thursday he will not run. Despite the Republican lean of the state, Democrats said Hutchison’s seat is one, as of now, they believe they can compete for.
“The 2010 cycle was full of surprises, and it turns out 2012 will have some twists and turns as well: The first Senate retirement is a Republican,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz said. “We look forward to running a competitive race in Texas as the Lone Star State is now one of several Democratic pickup opportunities next November.”
Roll Call Politics had rated this race Safe Republican, but given that it’s now an open seat, the race is likely to be less predictable until the field is set.
Hutchison said in a letter to supporters, first reported by the Dallas Morning News, that she is making her announcement now to allow Republicans sufficient time to campaign for a seat that is expected to be hotly contested. The winner of the March 2012 Republican primary will likely be the favorite to win that year’s general election.
“I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2012,” she wrote. “That should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.”
Hutchison, who serves as an appointed adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was defeated last year in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Hutchison had long targeted the Texas governorship, and speculation began immediately following her loss that she would retire in 2012.
“Kay came to the Senate to make a difference, to work to find solutions to the complex problems of modern society, and to attain real and lasting change,” Cornyn said in a statement. “She has succeeded in brilliant fashion.”