Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has jumped into the 2016 presidential race, declaring before supporters chanting “run, Rick, run” that “it’s time for a reset.”
He re-introduced himself to the nation after his unsuccessful 2012 race, telling the story of his hard-scrabble upbringing in rural agricultural Texas. “Home was a place called Paint Creek. It was too small to be called a town,” Perry said.
He touted the duty and family and country-centered set of values he grew up with, and said that “our rights come from God, not the government.”
And he got in some digs at President Barack Obama’s administration. “We’re at the end of an era of failed leadership,” Perry said.
He hammered away at the trouble America and its allies are having overseas trying to contain the Islamic State and other militants.
But the nation — as well as his candidacy — can and will rebound, Perry said. “We made it through Jimmy Carter. We will make it through this,” he said.
Using a C-130 cargo plane — the type he flew while serving in the U.S. Air Force — as a backdrop and introduced by veterans, Perry drew standing ovations from a large crowd of supporters as he launched his long-awaited but much expected second bid for the White House.
“This is the man we need as the next commander in chief,” said retired Navy SEAL Pete Scobell, now a country music artist.
Anita Perry, the former governor’s wife, referenced the long road it’s already been for her husband in his pursuit of the presidency a second time. “We’ve been on quite a journey,” she said.
Perry joins an already crowded field of Republicans vying for the White House, including fellow Texan and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who welcomed the former governor to the race.
“Gov. Perry is a friend and a patriot. He served the state of Texas with honor, integrity, and compassion,” Cruz said. “Texas is a better state because of his principled leadership and the GOP primary field will be better because of his candidacy. As with all the candidates who have announced, he will bring dynamism and vision to the race that will serve to make the Republican Party and its eventual nominee all the stronger.”
Perry, whose five years in the Air Force potentially makes him the only veteran in the 2016 presidential race, has been laying the groundwork for his second presidential bid, visiting Iowa more than a dozen times in the last year and a half.
“Perry’s candidacy will hinge on his performance in the Iowa Republican Caucus,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “Victory or a close second place finish could in theory ... provide the spark Perry needs to vault from the third tier up to the first tier of candidates, and set in motion strong performances in South Carolina and Nevada, potentially setting the stage for an epic battle in Texas on March 1.”
Democrats don’t believe that “battle royal” will happen.
“Texas is the greatest state in our nation, but that is despite Rick Perry and not because of him,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic PAC. “In fact, perhaps the best evidence proving the resiliency of Texans is that we have withstood a failed and self-serving governor like Rick Perry.”
Perry, Texas’ longest serving governor, has been involved in politics for three decades.
The 65-year-old Paint Creek native began his political career as a state representative — first as a Democrat until he switched parties to become a Republican — for six years.
By 1991, he successfully ran for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, a post he held for eight years, until he was elected lieutenant governor. He served in that job for nearly two years, until he was sworn in as Texas’ 47th governor after George W. Bush resigned to become president.
After finishing that term, Perry won election on his own in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
His winning streak ground to a halt when he ended a five-month long presidential bid in January 2012. He immediately had become the the front-runner in that year’s race but after lackluster debate performances and other missteps — including his infamous “oops” moment, when he couldn’t recall the third federal agency he would close if elected — his campaign struggled.
Perry does have obstacles to overcome — Texas fatigue and his “oops” moment among them, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.
Other than that, “there is a large field of Republicans, including three others — Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul — with Texas ties and potential to make inroads among Perry’s core support.
“He will need to overcome these obstacles, demonstrate a more pervasive command of national and international issues, and raise a large amount of money for the campaign,” Riddlesperger said.
Not only that, but he is the only person entering the presidential race with an indictment on charges of abuse of power hanging over his head.
Perry has long maintained the two count indictment are a partisan witch hunt and without merit.
The charges are based on a threat he made in 2013, as governor, to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit, which was part of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, unless the Democratic DA there resigned. DA Rosemary Lehmberg had been arrested for, and pleaded guilty to, drunken driving.
She refused; Perry vetoed the funding. Now he faces felony charges on abusing his office and coercing a public servant.
“Perry’s bid is a long shot, but nonetheless one that does have a plausible, albeit remote, path to victory,” Jones said. “Perry is an outstanding retail politician, and unlike in 2011, this time around he doesn’t have a day job, and can thus spend all the time he needs over the next eight months traveling throughout Iowa meeting thousands upon thousands of likely caucus voters.”
Perry was joined by a number of veterans Thursday, including retired U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor, Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell and retired U.S. Navy SEAL Pete Scobell.
He also was joined by Taya Kyle, the widow of American Sniper author Chris Kyle, who said she was there to “proudly stand with one of the great leaders this state and country have ever produced: Rick Perry.”
Katon Dawson, who chaired Perry’s 2012 South Carolina campaign and will be the state director for Perry’s 2016 race, said the former Texas governor has invested a lot of time and energy in the state planting the seeds for a rebound.
“Gov. Perry has been back on numerous occasions and found a very warm reception in all corners of the state,” said Dawson, a former state Republican chairman. “He’s talked to a lot of voters. He appeals to the people in the restaurants, in the diners and the meet-and-greets that we’ve had all over the state.
“He’s healthy, he’s well and he’s prepared,” said Dawson. “It has a different feel this time than last time.”
Staff writer John Gravois and contributor Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610
Rick Perry bio
James Richard “Rick” Perry
Born: March 4, 1950
Background: Eagle Scout
Family: wife, Anita, two children, two grandchildren
Education: Texas A&M University, animal science, 1972
▪ Yell Leader
Military: pilot, U.S. Air Force 1972-1977, retired as captain
Career: First elected as a Democrat, Texas House of Representatives 1984-1990
▪ Ran Texans for Al Gore in 1988 campaign
▪ Switched to GOP 1989
▪ Texas Commissioner of Agriculture 1990 – 1998
▪ Lt. Gov. of Texas 1998 – 2000
▪ Governor of Texas – 2000-2015, longest serving governor in Texas history
▪ On Dec. 21, 2000 Perry succeeded Gov. George W. Bush who became president. Perry was elected in his own right as governor in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
▪ Ran for president in 2012 but withdrew after poor showing
— Maria Recio, Star-Telegram Washington Bureau