Rick Perry is the forty-seventh governor of Texas and the nation’s longest-serving governor, a run that started when he stepped up to succeed newly elected president George W. Bush on December 21, 2000. Perry won his first full term on November 2, 2002, in an election that ushered in a new era of Republican dominance in Texas leadership. He won two more elections and was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth time on January 18, 2011. Perry, a graduate of Texas A&M University, is the first Aggie to be governor. A fifth-generation Texan, he is married to Anita Perry. They have two children, Griffin and Sydney.
For most of history, Texas has been considered a “weak governor” state. That changed under Perry’s leadership. “His long tenure in office … has enabled him to establish what amounts to a cabinet style of government,” giving him vastly more power than any of his predecessors, senior executive editor Paul Burka wrote in 2009.
Perry was born on March 4, 1950, and was raised by Ray and Amelia Perry in a modest frame house with no indoor plumbing in the tiny, unincorporated town of Paint Creek. His father worked their 10,000-acre cotton farm and was a county commissioner for 28 years; his mother was a bookkeeper at a nearby gin. (His mother sewed his underwear through college, he told editor Jake Silverstein in 2011.) He enrolled at Texas A&M, and was elected by the student body to be a yell leader, joining an elite group of five guys who lead football cheers. After graduation in 1972, he enlisted in the military. He flew transport planes for the Air Force, and when his tour ended in 1977, he returned to Paint Creek to take over the family ranch operation.
Perry entered a local state representative race as a Democrat in 1984 and won handily–the first of ten straight political victories, proving that he was a “great campaigner,” as we called him in 2011. During a certain point in his career, Perry came to realize that a conservative D like himself had little opportunity to win statewide office. This dovetailed nicely with Senator Phil Gramm aggressive efforts to woo converts to the Republican party, and in the fall of 1989, Perry announced he was going to switch parties.
In 2011 during a RedState rally in South Carolina, Perry announced his intention to run for the office of President of the United States of America. He dropped out 159 days later, ending what was widely considered to be a poorly run campaign, and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Texas Monthly named Perry the 2012 Bum Steer of the Year, a decision that was finalized, “in a matter of seconds. Fifty-three of them, to be exact: the time it took the governor to go from trying in vain to name the third agency of government he would shutter as president to giving up and muttering—in a phrase that will surely go down … as [his campaign’s] perfect epitaph—’Oops.’”
A frank conversation about the accomplishments and the missteps over a fourteen-year gubernatorial career—from tort reform to his executive order on HPV—with the man who can claim the longest, and most powerful, tenure of any governor in Texas history (and also what’s next in 2016).
After eleven contested elections dating back three decades, Rick Perry remains undefeated. Is he brilliant? Lucky? Ruthless? We asked the people who know best—his vanquished opponents.
A year ago Rick Perry’s political future seemed to be in peril. Now he’s looking past the 2010 elections—and all the way to the White House. Think I’m kidding? How about a cup of tea?
The looming clash between Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison may not be as fearsome as the storied Ali-Frazier bout, but it’s the heavyweight showdown every Texas political junkie has been waiting for.
And just how long are his coattails? Texas politics is always interesting, but the 2002 election—with two formidable tickets, four big races, and a healthy debate over whether this is still a two-party state—promises to be one for the books.