WASHINGTON -

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is defending her conservative record as leaves Washington after nearly two decades.

Hutchison told the Houston Chronicle that she had "to go to huge lengths" in the Senate to prove she was a conservative. The Republican's decision to not seek a fourth term came after her failed bid to unseat Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2010.

Perry beat Hutchison in the Republican primary behind tea party support and an anti-Washington message. But as she prepares to leave office, Hutchison says she is returning to Dallas as a "solid regular mainstream conservative."

Tea party darling Ted Cruz is taking Hutchison's seat.

Hutchison was among just six women in Senate when she arrived in 1993. A record 20 women will serve in the chamber next year.