Politics

Term limits debate adds heat to Texas governor's race

AUSTIN — At the end of his first term as president of the Texas Republic, Sam Houston had to leave office before seeking another term three years later. Under the republic's constitution, the storied Texas hero was barred from serving two consecutive terms.

Nearly 170 years later, the on-again, off-again question of term limits for Texas chief executives is now emerging as an ingredient in the roiling Republican primary battle between incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In seeking to retire the state's longest-serving governor, Hutchison wants to limit Texas governors to eight years in office, asserting that Perry would be in power far too long if he won an unprecedented third four-year term.

In response, the Perry camp is accusing Hutchison of being disingenuous, saying she backtracked on early pledges to seek term limits for members of Congress and broke a campaign promise by winning re-election to a third six-year term in 2006.

Consequently, political longevity and tenure are becoming widening themes in a race that has already divided the two senior office-holders on a host of other issues. Whenever Hutchison reminds voters that Perry would be in office for a total of 14 years if he wins re-election, Perry's campaign points to Hutchison's 16 years in the Senate to depict her as a classic Washington insider out of touch with Texas.

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