One of the leading voices on space issues in the Senate will be leaving. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced today that she has decided not to run for reelection in 2012. She said in the announcement that she would not leave before the end of her current term, but was making the announcement now, nearly two years before her term ends, to “give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.” Hutchison’s retirement plans aren’t necessary surprising: in the run-up to last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Texas, where she ran against and lost to incumbent Rick Perry, she had talked about resigning from the Senate to focus full-time on her campaign, but decided to stay on. In the announcement she notes that she had “intended to leave this office long before now”, but was persuaded to remain.
Hutchison, as ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has played a major role in space policy on the Senate side, often closely working with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), as was the case last year with the NASA authorization legislation. Nelson, incidentally, is also up for reelection in 2012, and while he’s given every indication he plans to run again, he may face a much stronger challenge than in 2006. It’s thus possible two of major architects of that authorization legislation now guiding NASA may not be around two years from now.