She's not officially running yet, but Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is officially raising money to run for Texas governor and officially taking dead aim at incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.
Hutchison sent out her first state wide solicitation letter this week, seeking contributions for her "Exploratory Committee," and marking out the corral where she and Perry will rodeo for the Republican nomination 14 months from now.
Hutchison's aggressive fundraising letter comes roaring out of the chute, saying, "Ten years of one man in the governor's office has left challenges unanswered, too little trust and consensus, and too much infighting."
Then, she slings a lasso around the governor and pulls the rope tight on what her campaign apparently views as his weakness, "Do you share my concern that our state budget has doubled in 10 years? Are you concerned that our state government ignores private property rights and property owners in a quest to cover the state with massive toll roads," she wrote.
Her letter goes on to accuse the governor of mismanaging state government, tagging him with scandals in the Texas Youth Commission and state prison system.
Hutchison said she is the true conservative in this contest "...not just in theory, but in practice. I received a 90 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union."
The response from Perry's office may signal just how ugly this contest is going to get.
"After 15 years in Washington and no accomplishments, it comes as no surprise that Sen. Hutchison would go on the attack against Gov. Perry," said Mark Miner, communications director for the Governor's office and his re-election campaign.
"Gov. Perry and the Texas legislature govern and get things done, they balance the budget every two years; Sen. Hutchison has no concept of any of this," said Miner.
Todd Olsen, with the Texans for Kay Hutchison exploratory committee, fired right back saying, "those statements are just wrong."
"The Senator (Hutchison) is well known and the Governor will end up regretting his spokesman's comments, because they are so far from believable. I think those comments will cost the governor credibility and respect,” said Olsen.
On the question of the senator's accomplishments, Olsen offered what he said Texans appreciate, like Hutchison's successful campaign as State Treasurer for a Constitutional amendment outlawing an income tax in Texas, and her success in the U.S. Senate to win IRS deductions for sales taxes paid by Texans.
This is the first official dust up in the coming race for governor.
Both sides admit the gloves are off now and they are spoiling for the fight, and a fight is exactly what the Texas GOP is about to get.