Home » Unlabelled » Rick Perry sets off political scramble by announcing he won’t seek re-election
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The state’s longest-serving governor said he will step down after 14 years — a tenure that began as a relatively little-known lieutenant governor assuming office in the shadows of George W. Bush and ending in the bright light cast by the most powerful chief executive the state has known.
He left open the possibility of a second run for president. Perry said he will “pray and reflect and work to determine my future path.”
“Any future considerations I will announce in due time,” he said. Choking up at one point, the Republican said he is humbled to have served so long. He expressed confidence that he is leaving the state in the position of an economic powerhouse.
“Texas is the new frontier for opportunity and innovation in America today,” Perry said as he stood before heavy construction equipment. “Texas is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century than any other state.”
The announcement, billed as the revelation of “exciting future plans,” included few details of what Perry might do to position himself for a run for higher office. But it served as the starting gun for a wide-open 2014 campaign year.
Attorney General Greg Abbott is poised to become the immediate front-runner to replace Perry, with an $18 million war chest and an extensive campaign operation. Former GOP state party chairman Tom Pauken is also running. And Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has been eyeing the race.
Perry made the announcement before several hundred current and former staffers at the Holt Caterpillar dealer. It was brought to Texas with government incentive money. Owner Peter Holt also became one of Perry’s largest campaign contributors.
The governor listed some of his greatest accomplishments as keeping taxes low, limiting lawsuits, restricting abortion and attracting business to the state. Fellow Republicans hailed his work to stymie federal intrusions.
But critics produced a different list. State Democratic Party executive director Will Hailer cited a “war on Texas women.” He recalled $5 billion cut from public education two years ago and Perry’s rejection of Medicaid health coverage for millions of Texans.
The governor, he noted, will leave behind a state where 25 percent have no health insurance and 1 in 4 live below the poverty line.
Democratic consultant Matt Angle said Perry’s announcement “is one of the few times Rick Perry has made the majority of Texans happy.”
Perry, 63, began as a Democratic state representative in 1984. He switched parties and went on to serve as agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor. He ascended to the top office in December 2000, when Bush left to assume the presidency. He has never lost a state election.
He evolved as a heavily partisan fighter who appointed loyal supporters to key positions. A Legislature dominated by Republicans since 2003 gave him the money and power to award millions in state incentives to businesses, which led to charges of cronyism.
Lawmakers also gave him appointment powers to name both the boards and the executives of major state agencies.
Perry has recently taken on higher education interests. He aimed to make college cheaper and more accessible. But critics saw an assault on major research work.
And several initiatives Perry repeatedly championed have gone nowhere, such as school vouchers. One of his highest-profile efforts, to require human papilloma virus inoculations for schoolgirls, brought a sharp rebuke from lawmakers.
He pushed a staunchly social conservative agenda, championing the state’s 2005 constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He signed into law several abortion restrictions. And the state is poised to add more in the latest special session he called.
On Monday, he issued no apologies. He hailed “the traditional values that have made Texas the greatest state in the greatest nation.”
“My conservative philosophy and policies have frequently made government agencies, special interests and even a few legislators uncomfortable. But that’s exactly what Texas needs to succeed, to innovate, to stay ahead of the competition,” Perry said.
He cited Texas job growth, population explosion and investments in infrastructure. He outlined a guiding philosophy: “The best way to fund education and health care is through job creation, not higher taxation.”
In touting his success, Perry also unfurled potential presidential campaign themes.
“He brings the most successful record of conservative governance of any candidate,” said Ray Sullivan, who served as Perry’s presidential campaign spokesman for his disastrous run in 2012. “It’s hard to see any other candidate for office matching that jobs, social, fiscal conservative, balanced-budget success that he’s seen during his tenure.”
The decision not to seek a fourth full term frees Perry up to lay groundwork and see if there is support for a second presidential run, Sullivan said.
He would need to “start to travel the country, raise money, build the political organization in other states, get good talented people early in the process before they’re snapped up by other campaigns,” Sullivan said.
But he’ll have the time to prepare. And, Sullivan noted, Perry would not immediately be in the spotlight, as he was when he became the last major candidate in the 2012 field.