Perry’s tight grip on Texas will hold after he’s gone

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Rick Perry, long-ago-Democrat-turned-fervent-Republican, state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor, longest-serving Texas governor by a country mile, on Monday pulled his hat out of the ring for a re-election race next year.

He reserved the choice to toss it into a different ring, widely seen as a reference to a possible-but-not-assured second run for the presidency, but he said he'll wait to make that decision "in due time" and "appropriately."

Many Texans probably had a one-word reaction: finally.

Anyone who is the top political officer of a state as large and diverse as Texas is going to make many people unhappy from time to time. With more than 12 years as governor, Perry has had more opportunity than anyone else to make friends and enemies.

Still, there’s no arguing with success. He’s been re-elected three times to four-year terms after serving his first two years as a replacement governor when George W. Bush was elected president. True enough, one of those re-election wins came with only 39 percent of the total vote, but it was still a win.

As governor, Perry’s greatest impact is widely seen as his use of his appointment power to gain a tight grip on the state’s political and governmental machinery. His longevity has allowed him to put his appointees on every board and commission and at every level of the judiciary.

He put his brand on those offices not only by filling seats but by demanding philosophical and political loyalty from his appointees. And he groomed several members of his governor’s office staff to take the top staff jobs at key state agencies.

That legacy will remain long after he leaves office in January, 2015.

Perry’s other signature trait has been his undisguised revelry in defying expectations. Legislators, news media, lobbyists and political insiders have learned not to ignore his penchant for explosive surprise.

Despite all of his maddening traits; his good, bad and arguable policy initiatives; his skill at seizing power and exerting it, there should be no doubt that Perry has pursued what he sees as best for Texas.

His service to the state has been long and unbending. No one should expect that to change in his next 18 months as governor or in whatever he does after that.

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