Rick Perry bade his now-famous farewell to a TV reporter, but the governor might as well have said it to all of his critics—Kay Bailey Hutchison, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Kinky Friedman, Tom Craddick, David Dewhurst, the media, the Democrats, the bloggers, the rumormongers, the savants of the lobby, and everyone else who has sneered at him for four and a half years: Adiós, mofo. The last laugh is mine. In a span of a few days in late June, Perry’s political fortunes changed from likely defeat for reelection in 2006 to likely victory, from failed leader to, potentially, successful one. Two events enabled this transformation: Hutchison’s announcement that she would seek reelection to the U.S. Senate rather than run for governor—leaving only Strayhorn and a moribund Democratic party between Perry and a record ten years in office—and the Legislature’s continuing failure to lower property taxes. Perry seized the opportunity to summon lawmakers for a midsummer special session to find an alternative source of revenue for public schools. By early July, the governor’s proposals had gained traction at the Capitol, and the possibility loomed that the fundamental question of Texas politics since his party took total control in the 2002 elections—Can the Republicans govern?—for the first time could receive an affirmative answer, either in this special session or a subsequent one.
I can’t believe I’m writing these words. About Rick Perry? This is a chief executive of whom the Hutchison camp liked to say, “Texas needs a grown-up for governor.” A chief executive whose first school finance plan was voted down 126 to 0 by the House in the 2004 special session. A chief executive who has been so disengaged that when politicos try to find something comparable to his current flurry of activity, they have to go back six years, when, as lieutenant governor, he strove valiantly but unsuccessfully to resolve a Senate deadlock over hate crimes legislation. Stories abound about