Perry announces he will not seek re-election as governor - New York News

Perry announces he will not seek re-election as governor

SAN ANTONIO -

Gov. Rick Perry was a champion of fiercely conservative social activism long before the tea party was born. He oversaw the "Texas Miracle" job-creation boom and became the state's most powerful governor since Reconstruction.

But nationally, Perry is better known for his `oops' presidential debate brain freeze or for not opposing forcefully enough the notion that Texas could secede from the union. For many outside the Lone Star State, he's a political punchline on par with Dan Quayle -- if he's known at all.

Now, the longest-serving governor in Texas history is quitting his day job. Perry announced Monday that he won't seek a fourth full term in office next year.

"The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership. Today I'm announcing I will not seek re-election as governor of Texas," Perry said Monday. "I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation. I will actively lead this great state. And I'll also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future."

But with another presidential run being speculated, Perry may first need to concentrate on rebuilding his tattered image with non-Texans.

"He's starting behind the eight ball," said South Carolina-based Republican operative Hogan Gidley, an adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- both unsuccessful presidential hopefuls who have remained national conservative forces.

Perry never lost an election during his 27-year political career and became a near-instant front-runner when he strapped on his signature cowboy boots and strode into the race for the GOP presidential nomination in August 2011.

But his White House run flamed out spectacularly, culminating in a debate in Michigan where Perry remembered that he'd pledged to shutter the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Education but forgot the third one, the Department of Energy. Quipped late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon: "It turns out George Bush was actually the smart Texas governor."

It wasn't the first time Perry's mouth had gotten him into trouble. Ending a television interview in 2005, Perry smirked at the camera and signed off: "Adios, mofo."

Those incidents, however, did little to lessen Perry's influence in Texas, where he is considered the most powerful governor since the Civil War.

Perry, who took office when then-Gov. George W. Bush left for the White House in December 2000, set the tone for his tenure the following June -- vetoing more than 80 bills in what became known in Austin as the "Father's Day Massacre." Since then, he's vetoed scores of other would-be laws, including a $35 billion public education budget and a ban on executing mentally disabled inmates.

But most of Perry's power has come from his sheer longevity. He remained in office long enough to tap loyalists -- sometimes even his top donors -- to every major appointed post statewide.

"He's made the state into his personal fiefdom," said Matt Glazer, a Democratic consultant.

Still, Gidley and others note Perry has been successful at appearing regularly on national television, attracting a great deal of media attention in his recent job-poaching tours of California, Illinois and New York.

Perry also still has his TV anchorman good looks -- he's often dubbed "Governor Good Hair." He has been a ferocious fundraiser buoyed by both grassroots activists and mainstream Republicans while presiding over a flourishing Texas economy.

The governor said Monday he is "looking forward to the next 18 months as I serve out my term. Any future considerations I will announce in due time and I will arrive at that decision appropriately. But my focus will remain on Texas."

Longtime staffer and former presidential campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan attended Monday's event and said afterward that Perry would have more opportunity to prepare for a presidential run.

"Without the pressure of another campaign, a governor's campaign and without the pressure of another legislative session, there's a lot more opportunity to make those trips, to have those opportunities," he said.

Sullivan said of Perry's legacy: "He has held the line on government. He has created an economic engine that is the envy of the nation and has really stuck to his conservative principles and been successful doing so."

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