This is the future grave of Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Born Kathryn Bailey in Galveston in 1943, the future Kay Bailey Hutchison grew up in La Marque, Texas before attending the University of Texas, where she graduated with a BA in 1962, only 19 years of age. She went to law school at UT as well, graduating in 1967. Rather than practice, she got a job with KPRC in Houston as the station’s legal and political analyst. Texas was of course undergoing the same transition as the rest of the South in the 1970s, with the Republicans becoming the White Man’s Party after Democrats embraced civil rights. Bailey (she was divorced after a brief marriage in the late 60s) was a piece of this transition. An ambitious young Republican, she actually did break new ground as a woman in the South by being so active in politics. She was elected to the Texas House in 1972 and stayed there until 1976, when she was named to the National Transportation Safety Board. She stayed on to the NTSB until 1978, when she married Ray Hutchison, a Dallas attorney and Texas state legislator from the Dallas area. They had met in the state legislature. Nothing like Republican lawmaking to start a hot romance.
Both of the Hutchisons were politically ambitious. I’m not sure exactly why Hutchison left the NTSB, but her departure timed with both her marriage and Ray’s run to be governor of Texas. However, he lost the 1978 Republican primary to Bill Clements, who went on to become the first Texas Republican governor since Reconstruction, a stark symbol of how Republicans now were the party of white supremacy. Kay was the next to take a stab at higher office, but lost the Republican primary for Congress in 1982. Well-connected, she spent the next few years as a bank executive.
In 1990, Hutchison returned to politics, when she was elected as the Texas State Treasurer. In 1993, Lloyd Bentsen resigned as senator to become Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury. Can we take a time out here and talk about what a stupid appointment this was? How many people could Clinton have named to this position instead of giving away a critical Senate seat, even one held by a really bad Democrat such as Bentsen? Anyway, there was a special election and of course Republicans were going to win. It was a pretty tight race in the Republican primary. Everyone smelled blood in the water and wanted a piece of it. What Hutchison had going for her was her elite connections and a feign toward moderation because she was pro-choice, at least in a theoretical fashion. But with the right-wingers splitting the vote (including Smokey Joe Barton), Hutchison became the Republican nominee, running against Bob Kruger, who Anne Richards had named to finish Bentsen’s term. The runoff wasn’t even close. She won a 67-33 election. As always, thanks to Bill Clinton!
Hutchison won her own full term in 1994, despite charges against her for records tampering and official misconduct over her time as State Treasurer, which eventually went nowhere. She then cruised to reelection in 2000 and 2006. There was some controversy over her 2006 election because she had pledged herself to two full terms during the ridiculousness of the term limits mania of the mid-90s. But like almost every other Republican, she ignored this when her own career ran up against it. Since Republican voters never actually cared about this and just used it as a cudgel against Democrats, she didn’t face serious opposition in that election either.
As a senator, there really isn’t that much to say honestly. Hutchison was a Republican hack. She received a bit more attention than the average hack because of her nominal pro-choice position, but of course she wasn’t ever going to stand up to the rest of the party to defend this. She was awful on immigration. She sponsored the bill that overturned Washington D.C.’s gun control law. She had a weird fascination with single-sex classrooms. Of course, she was a total hired gun of the fossil fuel industry and led the charge to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. She voted against the Affordable Care Act, but also voted against the Republican filibuster to hold up the bill, which I guess is something in the Susan Collins model of fake moderation.
In 2010, Hutchison decided to run for governor of Texas against Rick Perry and resigned from the Senate to do so. In Texas politics, she was the moderate, mostly over abortion. But in a party moving headlong toward fascism and idiocracy, voters preferred Perry, a man of almost incredible stupidity in service of revanchism. Even though Hutchison had all the high-powered endorsements–the Bushes, Dick Cheney, etc., Perry defeated her 53-31. Her elected political career was through, even though Beltway pundits occasionally floated her name as a presidential candidate.
After her defeat, Hutchison went into the world of Republican senior elites–consulting, serving on corporate boards, endorsing young candidates, etc. But she remained well-connected and ambitious enough that in 2017, everyone’s favorite fascist president, Donald Trump, named her as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. She remains in that position today.
Kay Bailey Hutchison will eventually be buried in Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas. This is of course the grave of Ray Hutchison, who died in 2014, at the age of 81.
This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions. Personally, I find being able to profile the living because they already have gravestones to be a particularly enjoyable genre of this series, so thanks for making this possible. If you would like this series to profile other Texans who helped turn the Republican Party into the White Man’s Party, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. George H.W. Bush is in College Station, Texas and John Tower is in Dallas. Previous posts in this series are archived here.