Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, the state’s longest-serving chief executive, defeated challenger Bill White, a Democrat, to win a third full term.
Perry, 60, beat White, 56, with almost 56 percent of the vote to 42 percent yesterday, with 83 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.
The second-biggest U.S. state by population has kept its budget balanced through the longest recession since the 1930s and now faces a deficit of as much as $21 billion in its next two-year fiscal cycle, according to legislative analysts. Officials have begun cutting spending even as sales-tax revenue, which funds about half the budget, has begun to rise.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Perry said of the deficit, speaking from a victory party at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda. “We need to make tough decisions.”
Perry disputed the size of the projected budget gap in a Bloomberg Television interview in September, saying it would be about $10 billion to $11 billion. In his remarks at the election party, which were broadcast on Texas Cable News, he acknowledged that state officials would be challenged to fund basic services while holding the line on taxes, which he has refused to raise.
Texas, with a general-obligation debt rating of AA+ from Standard & Poor’s, its second-highest, went through a transformation during the past 20 years, S&P said in a report last month. The demographic and economic changes left it with a stable housing market, increased commercial diversity, favorable energy prices and strong fiscal health, which let it come through the recession ‘relatively unscathed,” S&P said.
Perry ran on his record of managing the Texas economy, cutting property taxes and securing the state’s border with Mexico, according to his campaign website. Perry, a lieutenant governor who took over after George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, has held the office longer than anyone, surpassing Allan Shivers, who served from 1949 to 1957.
Perry, speaking of other Republican victories across the country, said Texas is “headed in the right direction” compared to other U.S. states.
“Champions of big government are cleaning out their desks right now,” said Perry. “The people are fed up.”
White, who served two terms as Houston’s mayor, challenged Perry’s long tenure as governor and based his campaign on the need to improve the state’s economy, education system and border security, according to his website.
White, in conceding defeat, urged Perry to be candid about the state’s budget deficit. State residents “expect some straight talk,” he said.