Hutchi­son set stan­dard to em­u­late

WE SAY: Kay bai­ley HutcHi­son

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -


her nearly 20-year ten­ure, Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son was never a Sun­day morn­ing se­na­tor — one who haunts the week­end news/talk shows. Texas’ se­nior U.S. se­na­tor isn’t quick with a quip or col­or­ful quote.

No, she wasn’t a Sun­day morn­ing se­na­tor, but she was the real deal ev­ery day of the week. Hutchi­son can leave of­fice with her head held high and the knowl­edge that Texas is the bet­ter for her ser­vice.

Hutchi­son was a com­plex politi­cian: Her de­meanor was re­served and her man­ner quiet. She is a se­ri­ous per­son who served with se­ri­ous pur­pose. In the con­text of th­ese hy­per­bolic times, she was not a chest-thump­ing Repub­li­can. She chose to be an ef­fec­tive one.

Her re­served man­ner no doubt contributed to the hu­mil­i­at­ing loss to Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 when she chal­lenged the in­cum­bent for the GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion. She had lots to talk about, but the mes­sage got lost in the avalanche of ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive rhetoric doled out ef­fec­tively by the Perry cam­paign.

Pol­i­tics is a tough busi­ness, and it’s hard on peo­ple who aim high and miss. It would be a dis­ser­vice to the se­na­tor, how­ever, to let that pri­mary loss de­fine her as she closes the book on a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer that spanned four decades, start­ing with ser­vice in the Texas House.

In 1993, she be­came the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Se­nate from Texas, de­feat­ing Demo­crat Bob Kruger in the race to suc­ceed U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Her vic­tory served to weaken the Demo­cratic grip on statewide of­fices. Some say Democrats never for­gave her and of­fer the in­dict­ment ac­cus­ing her of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct to but­tress the claim. A Travis County grand jury re­turned the in­dict­ment four months af­ter the 1993 spe­cial elec­tion.

If the in­dict­ment was in­deed an at­tempt to slow her down, it had the op­po­site ef­fect. The charges were dis­missed af­ter Travis County District At­tor­ney Ron­nie Earle de­clined to pro­ceed with the pros­e­cu­tion af­ter an ad­verse ev­i­den­tiary rul­ing in mid­trial.

The dis­missal ap­peared to fuel Hutchi­son’s po­lit­i­cal as­cen­dancy. Af­ter that, she rolled to easy vic­to­ries in sub­se­quent elec­tions. In en­dors­ing her bid for a full term in 1993, we noted that dur­ing the pe­riod be­tween in­dict­ment and the aborted trial: “(Hutchi­son) never lost fo­cus on her con­gres­sional du­ties. Her ac­com­plish­ments in the first year of ser­vice are im­pres­sive for a fresh­man and re­flect her de­vo­tion to the state.

“A mem­ber of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, she was in­stru­men­tal in keep­ing Kelly Air Force Base and the Naval Sta­tion at In­gle­side from be­ing closed. Both are im­por­tant to the economies of San An­to­nio and the Cor­pus Christi area.”

She never lost that afore­men­tioned fo­cus. When she en­tered the Se­nate, Phil Gramm was the se­nior se­na­tor and was pre­par­ing for his un­suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial bid. While Gramm made the na­tional rounds, it fell to Hutchi­son to look af­ter Texas in­ter­ests and she did it well and kept do­ing it through­out her term in the Se­nate.

Her per­for­mance has earned her well-de­served re­spect and ac­co­lades from her Se­nate col­leagues.

In re­marks she made sum­ming up her ca­reer re­cently, Hutchi­son noted that “Congress suf­fers a great deal of crit­i­cism for its par­ti­san ac­ri­mony. (W)hile we may dis­agree po­lit­i­cally, and air our op­po­si­tion in this cham­ber, it is the con­ver­sa­tion be­hind the scenes that ce­ments and de­fines our re­la­tion­ships. I will leave the Se­nate know­ing I have worked with men and women of great pa­tri­o­tism, in­tel­lect and heart from both sides of the aisle.”

As an ex­am­ple she of­fered her work with Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat. “We passed the Fe­in­stein-Hutchi­son Breast Can­cer Stamp bill that, through vol­un­tary pur­chase, has raised $72 mil­lion for breast can­cer re­search,” she said. “And Se­na­tor Fe­in­stein and I took the Am­ber Alert for ab­ducted chil­dren na­tion­wide, which has ac­counted for res­cu­ing al­most 600 chil­dren since its pas­sage.”

Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son was no back­slap­ping, glad-hand­ing politi­cian but she was passionate in rep­re­sent­ing the state and its peo­ple. She set a high stan­dard. Ted Cruz, her suc­ces­sor, and other sen­a­tors, present and fu­ture, would serve us well if they tried to meet that stan­dard.

We wish the se­na­tor well and thank her for her ser­vice as she closes this chap­ter in her ca­reer.


Former Hutchi­son staffer Matt Mack­owiak writes about his ex­pe­ri­ence as the se­na­tor’s press sec­re­tary.

On the View­points page


U.S. Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son, R-Texas, will close her Se­nate ca­reer next week. Her years can be mea­sured not in sound bites but in ac­com­plish­ments for her con­stituents.

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