Washington (AP) - Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican who was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from
In a letter addressed to her
In her letter, the state's senior senator said she had intended to leave office sooner but was persuaded to stay on to "avoid disadvantage to our state."
"The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period," Hutchison said. "Instead of putting my seat into a special election, I felt it was my duty to use my experience to fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt; the government takeover of the our health care system; and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy."
Hutchison said she would "continue that fight" until the end of her term. She is the first senator to announce their retirement ahead of the 2012 election.
First elected to the Senate in 1993, Hutchison won a special election to replace then-Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, who left his seat to serve as President Bill Clinton's treasury secretary. She was elected to a full term in 1994 and comfortably won reelection in 2000 and 2006.
Hutchison has long been viewed as representing moderate Texas Republicans. In her gubernatorial primary she ran as a more moderate alternative to Perry. Unlike her junior colleague, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Hutchison also supports legalized abortion.
Cornyn said Thursday that Hutchison "serves as an example to us all." He called her a leader in
During the governor's race, which she soundly lost in the primary, Hutchison first told Texas voters she would leave her seat regardless of the outcome of the primary, then announced she would serve out the full term.
Hutchison will have represented
Her decision is likely to set off a competitive race to replace her.