Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and an early Tea Party supporter, plans to step into the Republican presidential campaign this weekend in South Carolina and New Hampshire, the Associated Press reported today.
Perry, 61, who has toyed with a run for weeks, likely will base his bid on the economic buoyancy of Texas, the second- biggest state by population. AP cited Mark Miner, the governor’s spokesman in Austin, the state capital.
The longest-serving U.S. governor is set to speak Aug. 13 at a conference sponsored by RedState.com, a Washington-based weblog that describes itself as “conservative” on its site. He’s also scheduled to visit New Hampshire, cite of the first 2012 presidential primary election, the same day. Perry’s plans may keep his name in headlines as the first organized test of strength takes place in the Aug. 13 Iowa Straw Poll in Ames.
“As a three-and-a-half term governor, he has more gravitas than Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin, who appeal to the most conservative part of the party,” said James Riddlesperger, a politics professor at Texas Christian University, in an earlier interview. “But he also has some cachet with the center.”
Perry won’t be included in the first televised debate between Republican contenders for the nomination, set for tonight, or the straw poll, because he hasn’t formally declared his candidacy.
Appeal to Republicans
Riddlesperger said the governor will stress his state’s expanding economy and reining in expanding federal power to appeal to a broad swath of Republicans.
Texas picked up 4.29 million residents during the past decade and led big U.S. states in job growth, according to a June 20 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Washington-based group credited the state’s low taxes, predictable regulation and diverse workforce.
The state added more than 900,000 jobs from December 2000 to December 2010, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Texas ranked 45th among U.S. states in terms of the state and local tax burden on income in fiscal 2009, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington.
Perry’s entry into the crowded campaign for the chance to run against President Barack Obama next year follows months of deliberation over a potential bid that Perry said on July 19 was prompted by his wife, Anita. “‘Get out of your comfort zone,’” she told him, he said in an impromptu press briefing in Austin.
Miner didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment on the AP report.
Perry and Anita Thigpen, who met at an elementary school piano recital, were married in 1982 and have two adult children. The daughter of a general-practice doctor, Anita worked in health care after graduating from college with a nursing degree and earned a master’s in the subject.
Helped by Texas political consultant Karl Rove, Perry won his first statewide race in 1990, to become agriculture commissioner. He was re-elected in 1994, the year George W. Bush became governor. In 1998, Perry was elected lieutenant governor. He took over the top spot in December 2000 after Bush resigned to prepare for his inauguration as president.
“Governor Perry has considered attracting business to Texas as his job one,” said Peggy Venable, state director of Americans For Prosperity, a nonprofit organization based in suburban Arlington, Virginia, that promotes limited government. “We weren’t number one in attracting business under Governor Bush. This has all happened since Governor Perry.”
About 550,000 Texans earned the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour last year, compared with 174,000 in California and 264,000 in New York, according to Labor Department figures. The state’s low wage rates reflect a young workforce that is poorly educated compared with the U.S. average, along with a low cost of living, said Lori Taylor, who teaches economics at Texas A&M University in College Station.
“Texas has created a large number of jobs, but it also has one of the highest poverty rates and some of the lowest benefits,” said Dee Simpson, Texas legislative director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and a supporter of Democrats since the 1970s. “Perry was the first major politician that got in on the deal with the Tea Party and it’s paying off for him.”
Perry dismissed talk of a presidential bid until May 27, near the end of the state’s six-month legislative session, when he said he was “thinking about” a run. Prospects for his entry improved when his longtime political adviser, Dave Carney, quit Newt Gingrich’s campaign, joining top aides who left the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on June 9.
In his 2010 book, “Fed Up,” the governor attacked expanding federal power over states. In speeches and press briefings this year, Perry has criticized the Obama administration over the president’s signature health-care overhaul, passed by Congress in March 2010, Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting oil and gas producers and efforts to limit cross-border drug smuggling from Mexico.
Perry wants better border protection, saying in a July 18 speech that the number of National Guard troops deployed there is “grossly inadequate.” Speaking to a Texas Municipal Police Association meeting in Austin, Perry said, “the federal government continues to turn a blind eye to this problem.”
Raised as a Methodist, Perry now attends Austin’s nondenominational Lake Hills Church, where services feature rock-inspired music. The governor makes his Christian faith part of his public persona and promoted an all-day event in Houston on Aug. 6 as a “call to prayer for a nation in crisis.”
Perry will need to eclipse Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has led most surveys of likely primary voters. In campaigning, Romney touts his experience creating jobs as a venture capitalist. He is a co-founder of Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, a private-equity firm with about $65 billion in assets that has invested in companies including Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Bright Horizons Family Solutions LLC.
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