"I worked closely with Sen. Hutchison for two decades, particularly on issues related to women and families."
The two joined forces on the Amber Alert legislation for abducted children, named for Amber Hagerman of Arlington, who was abducted and killed in 1996.
They also collaborated on the Breast Cancer Stamp bill, which has raised more than $76 million for breast cancer research.
"Her legacy as a tireless advocate for these causes will live on," Feinstein said.
Another close associate is U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, whose 1996 election prompted talk of "the two Kays" in Texas political circles.
"Kay Bailey Hutchison is a good friend, and I'm sad that we won't be serving together again next year," Granger told the Star-Telegram.
"Sen. Hutchison has done so much for Texas, and I have been honored to work with her on preserving our state's C-130 squadron, the Wright Amendment and Trinity River Vision, among many other things."
The two Kays worked to ensure funding for the Trinity River Vision flood control and economic development project in Fort Worth and to stop an Air Force plan to move the C-130s from Naval Air Station Fort Worth to Montana.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, also has a long association with Hutchison.
"I have a close personal relationship with Kay that goes beyond the halls of Congress. We worked together to represent the people back home for nearly 20 years. She was a warrior for Texas and she will be missed," Barton told the Star-Telegram.
"We have shared many memories -- both political and personal -- but one of the stories that sticks out to me was the first time Kay went to Texas A&M after she was elected to the Senate," said Barton, a gung-ho Aggie.
"She wore burnt orange to an event in College Station. I pulled her aside and jokingly said, 'Kay, I don't think you realize this -- but that is not a really popular color here at A&M.' As far as I know, she never wore burnt orange to campus again -- unless she was cheering on her Longhorns at Kyle Field."
She has admirers among Texas Democrats, too. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said, "You could count on Sen. Hutchison to do the right thing."
Hutchison's support for Texas interests, especially NASA, made her a "pioneer," Jackson Lee said.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said Hutchison hosted joint Democratic-Republican Texas delegation breakfasts for a number of years. And he appreciated her work on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"She's been a lifesaver," he said. "She's been a godsend on so many things. We're going to miss her a lot. Seniority counts, especially in the Senate."
'Should be a rotation'
Hutchison said she thinks that term limits make sense.
"I'm not sorry about leaving," said Hutchison, 69. "I think it's the right time."
"I'm a strong proponent of term limits. I intended to serve two terms, not three. There should be a rotation."
One factor in her thinking is the desire to return to Texas. Her husband, Ray, and 11-year-old adopted children, Bailey and Houston, live in Dallas.
But there is also the political fallout from the drubbing she took in 2010 in her chaotic run for governor.
Ben Barnes, a former Texas lieutenant governor and a well-known Democratic lobbyist, said he'd give her legislative record "an above-average grade."
"The low point of her career was when she lost that governor's race," Barnes said.
Hutchison lost badly in the GOP primary to Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 after putting off a run in 2006. She also effectively became a lame duck by saying she would step down from the Senate, then decided to stay on through the end of her term.
Hutchison is certainly a survivor: Shortly after being elected, she was indicted in Texas on allegations of campaign abuses. In a Fort Worth courtroom, she was acquitted when Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle refused to continue after the judge would not allow much of the prosecution evidence.
"It was so political and so baseless," Hutchison said in the interview.
But it also showed Texans their new senator's steely resolve.
Time for the kids
In her farewell address, Hutchison showed a softer side, talking about having her children visit her office.
"And while Washington has occupied much of my time, they have loved coming to the Capitol, and I know that my children's fondest memory of my time here will be of playing soccer in the Russell building's hallways in the evenings when the coast is clear."
In the interview, she said, "I certainly want to be home with them, and I want to raise them in Texas."
Hutchison said she hopes to be "of counsel" at a law firm and to continue to do public speaking and to serve on corporate boards. "I believe this is the right time for me to be able to start another career."
And she doesn't think she'll be back in politics even though Fort Worth lawyer Dee Kelly said that "I hope this isn't the end of her public service."