Two sources on Capitol Hill -- speaking on condition of anonymity because Hutchison has not made an official announcement -- said she has informed Texas Republican delegation members and others in Washington of her plans.
Hutchison has all but said she is running for governor in Texas in 2010, but has yet to formally declare she is bidding for the job. Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry already has said he'll run again in 2010.
The state's senior senator has said she does not plan to seek another term in the Senate and that she may leave the Senate before her current third term ends in 2012. At a Senate lunch Thursday, Hutchison announced she would not seek re-election to her Senate leadership job or pursue a higher position in leadership ranks, Short said.
Hutchison is the policy chairwoman, the No. 4 position among Senate Republicans. Elections are held every year for leadership.
Hutchison said in a statement she decided not to seek re-election to her leadership job so she could "explore new opportunities that many Texans have asked me to consider."
"It is in the best interests of the (Republican Senate) conference to elect a new policy committee chairman who can commit full attention throughout the next Congress to policy committee responsibilities," she said.
Hutchison was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993 in a special election. She has been in the Republican leadership since January 2001. She'll remain in the leadership until January 2009, Short said.
Some of her latest hints of a likely gubernatorial run came over the summer.
In August, near the end of a speech to a Texas group, an audience member shouted encouragement for her gubernatorial bid. She told the audience members she looks forward to working with them, "wherever I am."
Speaking to the Texas Association of Broadcasters earlier that month, she told the group she looked forward to working with it "for the next few months, or however long I'm in Washington. Then maybe in other venues in the future."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, stands to gain from Hutchison's departure. Although there is likely to be interest from others in the leadership job she's leaving, Cornyn lined up enough support to win the job last year when Hutchison was testing the waters for a move up in leadership ranks.
She ended up not running for the higher position after failing to win enough support and Cornyn stayed put as vice chair, the fifth ranking position.
Cornyn, who is seeking his second Senate term, also is considering running for chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate.
Spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement Cornyn's focus is on congressional business.
"His position in the Senate leadership, along with Senator Hutchison's, has allowed them to deliver for Texas but it would also be far too presumptuous to think beyond this November when he is up for re-election himself," Walsh said.
Cornyn faces Democrat Rick Noriega in November.
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