Politics & Government

Rick Perry’s stamp of approval: Is it enough?

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry AP

Rick Perry’s name won’t be on this year’s primary ballot in Texas.

But the influence of the state’s longest serving governor — and former two-time presidential candidate — may still well be felt behind the scenes.

As candidates gear up for the March 1 primary election, Perry has given four a rare gift: his political endorsement.

Now the question is: Is his stamp of approval on these candidates, which include two in Tarrant County, political gold or yesterday’s news?

“Rick Perry remains very popular among Texas Republicans and his endorsement does carry weight, especially in races where primary voters don’t know a great deal about the candidate being endorsed,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“A Perry endorsement in particular provides an instant level of credibility and visibility for the candidate among many GOP primary voters,” he said. “Furthermore, since Perry is very selective in who he backs, his endorsement could also aid the candidate in the crucial task of fundraising.”

But the question is how much pull it will have, since Perry no longer is in office and was indicted on a charge of abuse of power, said Brandon Rottinghaus, associate political science professor at the University of Houston.

“Gov. Perry’s endorsements are dated and a bit tainted,” he said. “The Republican Party has moved on to new stars and the indictment and failed presidential campaign hurts Perry’s image.”

Former Gov. Rick Perry has served three decades in public office, as governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner and state representative.

At the same time, Rottinghaus said Perry’s continuing political influence can’t be denied.

“He is the elder statesman of the Republican Party in Texas so his opinion counts,” he said. “He still has considerable support in the state and is owed dozens of favors, so he has sway in many quarters.”

The chosen four

So far, four candidates who will appear on the March 1 primary ballot have received the nod of approval from Perry, who served three decades in political posts.

It is unusual ... why a guy of his stature is getting involved in local races.

Bill Miller, an Austin-based political analyst

Before becoming the state’s longest serving governor, holding office from 2000 to 2015, he served stints as lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner and state representative.

“It is unusual ... why a guy of his stature is getting involved in local races,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political analyst. “But everything is personal with him.

“So it’s either pro for the person he supports or con on the person” he’s not endorsing.

Here’s a look at the races he has weighed in on so far.

Tarrant County Sheriff: Perry has endorsed Bill Waybourn, a former Dalworthington Garden police chief who is challenging Sheriff Dee Anderson for this post. “I am proud to endorse Chief Bill Waybourn for Tarrant County Sheriff,” Perry said. “Chief Waybourn is responsible for implementing the DWI NO REFUSAL Program, started in Texas which spread to 15 states and now the National Highway Transportation recommends this tool for training throughout the Nation.” John M. Garris is also in the race for sheriff.

Texas House District 92: The former governor has given his backing to Scott Fisher, a Bedford pastor and former Perry appointee who is challenging state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. “Scott Fisher has an incredible record of achievement,” Perry said, noting Fisher’s time serving as his appointee on the Texas Ethics Commission, Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Justice Department. “Scott Fisher knows how to take strong conservative values and turn them into successful conservative policies.” The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Kim K. Leach in November.

Any former governor’s endorsements are important and nice for a candidate to have.

Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington

Texas Senate District 1: Perry has endorsed state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in the race to replace Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, in the Texas Senate. Hughes is in a four-way GOP race, facing state Rep. David Simpson of Longview, Mike Lee of Queen City and James K. Red Brown of Tyler. “Bryan Hughes is a committed conservative fighting to secure our borders from illegal immigration,” Perry said. “Bryan has consistently stood to protect life and East Texas values.”

Texas Senate District 24: Perry also has endorsed Dawn Buckingham, an Austin ophthalmologist, in the race to replace Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, in the Texas Senate. She is in a six-way race for the GOP nomination, against Reed Williams of Burnet, Brent Mayes of Fredericksburg, Susan King of Abilene, Jon Cobb of Lakeway and Ryan Downton of Temple. “Dawn is a committed conservative who has a proven record of public service,” Perry said. “She will take her focus on limited government, border security, standing for life and traditional values to the Texas Senate on behalf of Senate District 24.” The winner of the Republican nomination faces Virginia “Jennie Lou” Leeder of Llano in November.

Looking ahead

“Any former governor’s endorsements are important and nice for a candidate to have and it also may enhance the name recognition of someone who is endorsed,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

But “will this swing a race one way or the other? Probably not, unless it’s ultra close,” Miller added. “But his endorsement raises the profile in the race.”

Now that Perry has weighed in on a handful of Texas races, will he also make an endorsement in the presidential race?

That remains to be seen.

“Given the fragmented and convoluted state of the GOP presidential primary field, a majority of Republican elites are holding back their endorsements until they have a better feel for who the truly viable candidates are,” Jones said.

“Perry is not alone in that respect, in fact he is one of a large majority of Republican officeholders and recent officeholders who have not yet endorsed any presidential candidate.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley