Hutchison hints again at gubernatorial bid

AUSTIN (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hinted yet again Friday that she plans to run for Texas governor in 2010.

Hutchison avoided a chance to take a dig at Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican who has said he'll seek a third term in two years, and instead dropped more clues about an election bid to oust him.

"I agree with the governor that we need to address the ethanol mandate," Hutchison said, when asked if Perry would be politically harmed by Thursday's denial by federal regulators of his request to cut the mandate in half for a year.

"I think that we'll address the issues of the election when the election comes ... I'm really putting my efforts on helping the candidates who are up in 2008 and I will be ready to go for 2010 when the time comes."

Ready for what, exactly, in 2010?

"I'm not going to make an announcement right now, but I'm on the road," she said, grinning.

Hutchison has not shied away from criticizing Perry in recent months. In June, she made headlines by speaking out against the state's new business tax, which was enacted with the support of Perry. She called the tax amounted to a corporate income tax, which is illegal in Texas, and hadn't reduced property taxes as promised.

Hutchison considered taking on Perry in 2002 and again in 2006, but decided against what would have been divisive primary campaigns.

This time, she's made it clear that Perry won't stop her, saying earlier this year that "there's not anyone who could really make a case to me that this would be divisive for the Republican Party in a way that would make me step back." She announced in October - not even a year into her third six-year term as senator - that she would not seek re-election.

Speaking to the Texas Association of Broadcasters on Friday, Hutchison's speech focused on next year's television transition to a digital signal and she urged broadcasters to continue spreading the word to their local viewers.

It was another opportunity to fuel speculation about her plans.

"I look forward to working with you for the next few months, or however long I'm in Washington," she said, to laughter from the crowd. "Then maybe in other venues in the future."