Rick Perry of Texas, the longest-serving U.S. governor and a failed 2012 Republican presidential candidate, won’t seek a fourth term next year.
Perry, 63, appearing before cheering supporters in San Antonio today, didn’t rule out another run for president, saying he’ll announce his plans “in due time.”
His decision will end a gubernatorial career that’s spanned more than a decade and featured an agenda that included cutting taxes, creating jobs, restricting abortion and taking on other social issues that appealed to the conservative wing of the Republican party.
“The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” Perry said. During his final 18 months in office, the governor said he would “pray and reflect and work to determine my own future.”
Perry faltered on the national stage in the last presidential campaign. During a Republican presidential primary debate in 2011, he forgot which U.S. government agencies he would eliminate if he were elected. He later quit the race.
Leaving the governorship gives Perry chance to prepare a stronger presidential bid in 2016, Ray Sullivan, his former chief of staff and communications director, told reporters today after Perry spoke.
“He learned a lot last time, and one of the lessons was get in early,” Sullivan said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott may seek the Republican nomination for governor of the country’s second-most-populous state. Abbott, who has been attorney general since 2002, has raised $18 million to finance a run.
The governor’s announcement coincides with a second special session of the legislature that he called in part to reconsider abortion restrictions that lawmakers failed to approve last month. The limits, which Perry backs, may cause abortion providers to close by forcing them to upgrade clinics to meet surgical-center guidelines.
Senator Wendy Davis, who attracted national attention by trying to block the abortion by speaking for more than 11 hours during a filibuster, may run for the Democratic nomination.
Perry was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 and took over as governor in December 2000, when Republican George W. Bush stepped down to become president. Perry was elected as governor in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
Perry, whose party holds majorities in both chambers of the legislature, opposed expanding Medicaid for the poor under President Barack Obama’s health-care law. The governor also has taken credit for creating jobs and lowering taxes.
“Perry has defined the Texas Republican Party as a conservative who is frugal, money-wise, and favors restricting the role of government, while appealing to the Christian right,” said James Riddlesperger, a political-science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “To use one of George W. Bush’s terms, many people have misunderestimated Rick Perry, because he is a natural politician.”
Perry, speaking today at a Caterpillar Inc. dealership warehouse, emphasized Texas’s economic success.
“No other state can match what we have accomplished,” said Perry, citing the addition of 1.6 million jobs in the state since 2000. “Today, Texas is the envy of the nation.”
The governor also described how “We’ve protected the sanctity of marriage, we’ve respected the values that have made Texas the greatest state in the greatest nation.”
Perry’s efforts to adopt abortion restrictions may burnish his appeal with voters who identify themselves as Christian conservatives in Iowa and other key presidential primary states, said Bill Miller, a political consultant in Austin who has advised both Republicans and Democrats.
The governor ranked sixth among potential presidential candidates for 2016, according to a survey of Texas Republican voters by Public Policy Polling, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He trailed freshman U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas as a presidential choice, 27 percent to 7 percent, according to the poll released July 2.
Perry made his announcement in a warehouse owned by Caterpillar dealer Peter Holt, owner of the National Basketball League’s San Antonio Spurs and a longtime Perry donor.
“I didn’t know what he was going to say and I don’t think he even told his family until last night,” Holt said in an interview. “I think his timing is good to be moving on.”