Perry decides not to seek another term as governor

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Gov. Rick Perry’s Monday announcement that he won’t seek a record fourth term as governor set the stage for a turnover in Texas politics unlike any seen in recent years.

It is well known that Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, seen by many as governor-in-waiting, hopes to be the next Texan to occupy the governor’s mansion — and that many other current GOP office holders will try to move up to a higher elected office than the one they now hold.

“This is as big a statewide event as you could have politically,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political consultant. “We are going to have new people in almost every position.

“It’s a new day.”

Perry, a Republican and the state’s longest serving governor, staged a special event Monday at a heavy equipment warehouse in San Antonio before friends and supporters to announce his plan to not seek re-election.

“It has been an improbable journey that has taken me from a farm in a place called Paint Creek to the Texas Governor’s office,” Perry, 63, said of his record-breaking tenure as Texas’ 47th governor. “Every day has been an honor.”

And while he pledged to remain active as the state’s chief executive over the next 18 months — which includes calling as many special sessions as needed to resolve issues currently on the table — Perry said “the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership.”

The governor add that: “Public service is a sacred trust. I am grateful for the privilege that Texans have allowed me.”

As for any decision about a future bid for the White House, Perry said he will “pray, reflect and work to determine” his future path and make any announcement “in due time.”

Instead of mentioning their own political plans, statewide Republican officeholders, who have kept Democrats shut out of the top positions since the late 1990s, for the most part left Monday to Perry, praising the work he has done while in office.

Many Democrats statewide and beyond are urging state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth to seek their party’s nomination.

“The Texas Democratic Party is getting the ground ready for our gubernatorial candidate,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “We will run an aggressive campaign to Turn Texas Blue and defeat Greg Abbott, and any other Republican candidate for governor.”

Ripple effect

With Perry’s decision, most top statewide offices — governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner — are expected to be open seats in next year’s election.

This leaves Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate last year, as the only remaining Republican office holder seeking the office he or she holds today.

Dewhurst had already drawn challengers, including Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has already announced her retirement. And now that Abbott is expected to run for governor, that opens up the AG post, as well.

Abbott said it has been a great honor to work with Perry, but he noted that “our work together is not done, and over the next year and a half, we will continue our work to keep Texas the very best state for attracting jobs, raising families and advancing freedom.”

Abbott, who could formally announce his own political plans in the next week, has raised more than $18 million dollars and built a political team in Austin that includes several of Perry’s former consultants. He has planned several political events this month, including a “Meet Greg Abbott” stop at 1 p.m. July 16 at the Ben Franklin Apothecary in Duncanville.

Former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken, who has also thrown his hat into the ring for the governor’s job, praised the work Perry has done. But he also poked at Abbott, saying the attorney general “represents an Austin that has grown stale with insiders inheriting promotions.”

Davis, the Fort Worth Democratic senator who has twice led filibusters to end legislative sessions that prompted Perry to call lawmakers back to work, remained mum about her own plans. Some political experts predicted Monday she won’t run for governor because the GOP remains dominant statewide — for now.

“I congratulate Gov. Perry on his lifetime of public service and I feel confident the next campaign will sort itself out in due time,” she said in a statement. “For now, my priorities remain the same – focusing on the work at hand and fighting to make Texas a great place for all families.”

Perry will retire in January 2015 with slightly more than 15 years as Texas’ governor.

“After January of 2015, new chapters will be written.” Perry said. “New leaders will write them. But the focus must remain on the greatest state in the nation and opportunity for her people.”

A long career

Perry began his political career as a Democratic state representative, although he later switched parties to become a Republican, and by 1991 had been elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, a post he held for eight years.

By 1998, he was elected lieutenant governor, where he served until he was sworn in as Texas’ governor after George W. Bush resigned to become president in December 2000.

Perry went on to win gubernatorial elections of his own in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

The last time he faced a significant challenger, then-U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, he painted her as a moderate trounced her in the GOP primary election.

But his winning streak ground to a halt when he ended a five-month long presidential bid in January 2012. He immediately had became the front-runner but after lackluster debate performances and other missteps — including his infamous “oops” moment — his campaign struggled.

For months, Texans and political analysts have wondered about Perry’s political future.

“Any future considerations I will announce in due time, as I arrive at any decisions,” Perry said. “But my focus will remain on Texas. Public service is a sacred trust. I am grateful for the privilege that Texans have allowed me.

“Until I leave this office, I will continue working hard to do what’s best for Texas.”

Perry isn’t likely to leave politics in 2015, even after he is no longer governor.

Miller said he believes a second presidential bid is in the works for 2016.

“I think within a year, maybe spring of next year, he will be forming exploratory committees,” Miller said. “I honestly believe he wants to run nationally again.”

PERRY REACTION

“It has been an honor to work with my friend, Governor Rick Perry, in creating the most conservative state in America.”

— Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

“ I usually disagree with the Governor several times per day, but I appreciate his love of Texas and wish him the best of luck.”

— State Rep. Mike

Villarreal, D-San Antonio

“Governor Perry led the Great State of Texas during a period that will forever be etched in history for unprecedented job creation and economic growth.”

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

“ ... Rick Perry has finally realized his time has come to an end. ... I strongly believe the majority of Texans are able to say they are happy Governor Perry has decided to vacate his position.”

— U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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