KBH OUT, WHAT NEXT? That was the question politicians in both parties were asking last week after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Texas) made her long-anticipated announcement that she will in a few months resign her Senate seat to campaign full-time next year for the Republican nomination for governor, a position she has long wanted. The Republican known universally as “KBH” told Dallas radio talk show host Mark Davis last week that her actual resignation “will be sometime — October, November — in that time frame.” Under Texas law, Republican Gov. Rick Perry (whom Hutchison will challenge in the primary next March) will appoint a successor and a “snap” special election will be held no later than May of 2010. Although John McCain carried Texas with 55% of the vote last fall and the state last elected a Democratic senator in 1988, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) cautioned reporters at a recent press breakfast that “we can’t be called a solidly ‘red state’ any more.” Cornyn noted that Democrats have been making steady gains in local offices and seats in the state House of Representatives (where they are now within two votes of a majority) and that state Democrats have two heavyweight contenders for Hutchison’s seat: former Houston Mayor Bill White and former State Comptroller John Sharp. The leading Republican hopefuls are Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and State Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. The lone African-American in statewide officer, Williams had already filed a campaign committee and raised more than $1 million. Other Republican hopefuls include former State GOP Chairman and longtime conservative activist Tom Pauken, former Secretary of State Roger Williams, State Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and State Sen. Florence Shapiro.