March 25, 2005
Hey, it was the Nineties, you had to be there

If you're still sorting through the tea leaves looking for a reason why Kay Bailey Hutchison would abandon the Senate for a cage match against Rick Perry, here's one: In her 1994 campaign, she pledged to serve no more than two full terms as a Senator.

Hutchison made her promise in television ads and personal statements in 1994, and on election night she said:

"I've always said that I would serve no more than two full terms. This may be my last term, or I could run for one more. But no more after that. I firmly believe in term limitations and I plan to adhere to that."


Hutchison was first elected to the Senate in 1993 in a special election after Lloyd Bentsen was appointed Treasury secretary.

She made term limits a major promise of her 1994 re-election campaign and included it in television commercials produced by David Weeks of Austin. Weeks now works for Perry's campaign.

Term limits were a popular Republican campaign issue in 1994, serving as a centerpiece of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. Term limits also were one of the first agenda items dropped by Republicans once they gained control of the U.S. House.

"Popular" is almost an understatement. You'd have been hard-pressed to find a non-incumbent Republican (KBH, who was in office a bit more than a year by the time the '94 election rolled around, is close enough for these purposes) who didn't include a paean to term limits in his or her campaign. It was all a gimmick, of course - since Democrats still ruled the Earth in 1994, what they all meant was "Let's limit those other guys' terms". The fact that the idea was dropped like a bad habit once its proponents got themselves elected was totally predictable; hell, if you looked closely enough, you could see them with their fingers crossed the entire time.

It's all amusing but little more than a sideshow distraction nowadays. One-time support for term limits among current (almost exclusively Republican) incumbents is to the Nineties what pot smoking was to the Sixties: everyone who was anyone did it, nobody wants to talk about it now, and when forced to confront it, the accused chuckles nervously, shrugs his or her shoulders, makes vague references to the prevailing culture of the time, and changes the subject as quickly as possible. Next!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 25, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack