U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison formally entered the Texas governor's race Monday, taking on two-term incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the March primary.
Hutchison, filing her candidate paperwork at the state Republican Party headquarters, threw jabs at Perry by suggesting he isn't as popular as she is with voters and chastising him for what she said is "cronyism and mismanagement" in his office. Perry filed last week for an unprecedented third term.
Hutchison said there is a revolving door between Perry's office and lobbyists and said she would push for ethics reform if elected.
"I think it's time for us to have term limits for governor," Hutchison said. "It is time that we have limits on campaign contributions so that people know that you're not going to be able to buy access with millions of dollars in campaign contributions."
Perry and Hutchison have been squaring off for months, but now both have officially entered the race. Party activist Debra Medina also is running. The GOP winner will face the Democratic nominee in November 2010.
Responding to Hutchison's filing, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the senator has spent 16 years in Washington and has lost touch with Texans with her "record of voting for bailouts, earmarks and record deficits." Miner said Texas is better off economically because of Perry's leadership in job creation and limiting spending.
Hutchison repeated her familiar campaign themes of protecting private property rights and improving education and the transportation system.
Speaking Monday to about 1,200 people at the Texas Farm Bureau's annual convention in Fort Worth, Hutchison said that if she is elected governor, the government won't be able to take property for a purpose that's not public, underpay farmers and then turn it over to a foreign company.
Hutchison also said that if she's elected, the Trans-Texas Corridor project will, "really be dead." Farmers have opposed Perry's toll road network plan that threatens to take farm and ranch land.
The organization, with 430,000 member families, has endorsed her in the GOP primary over Perry.
Hutchison also has said she wants to work with law enforcement officers so they will have the authority to deport illegal immigrants who are arrested for committing crimes.
That may have been a reference to the new Democratic candidate in the race, Houston Mayor Bill White, who supported local policies restricting police officers' ability to inquire about immigration status until a suspect has been arrested on a criminal charge.
Hutchison called White a credible candidate, and said she is the one who can win the 2010 election.
"I am the conservative," Hutchison said of her strategy for defeating Perry in a Republican primary where social conservatives who tend to back Perry reliably show up to vote.
Hutchison has said she'll remain in the Senate while running in the March 2 primary.
For the Democrats, well-heeled businessman Farouk Shami has also filed. Kinky Friedman's camp told the Austin American Statesman that he hasn't yet made his decision to file and will wait a few days.
Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.