SAN ANTONIO — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), the longest-serving governor in the state’s history, announced here Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2014 amid speculation that he will run again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
“I remain excited about the future and the challenges ahead but the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” Perry told an audience at a heavy equipment company in San Antonio. “Today I am announcing I will not seek reelection as governor of Texas.”
He said he would continue actively as governor until his term expires but made no explicit statement about what might come after that. “Any future considerations I will announce in due time,” he said.
Perry’s decision not to run for a fourth full term will usher in a new era in Texas politics. For the past two decades, the governor’s mansion has been in the hands of two politicians, George W. Bush and Perry.
With Bush in retirement after two terms as president and Perry exiting the state stage, a new generation of Republicans will come to the forefront, among them Sen. Ted Cruz, who was just elected in 2012 and has made a mark in Washington with his conservative positions and sharp tongue and who, like Perry, could become a presidential candidate in 2016.
Even before Perry made his announcement, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) had made no secret of his desire to run for governor. With Perry’s decision, he will be able to move ahead.
Perry’s announcement came as a special session of the Texas legislature continued work in Austin on a bill to restrict abortions. A similar measure died during a special session last month after an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and as a chorus of demonstrators chanted from the galleries as time in the session expired.
Perry used the setting to review his record, particularly on jobs and the economy. “Today Texas is the envy of the nation,” he said.
Perry said that 30 percent of the net new jobs created over the past decade have been in Texas. “It’s the private sector that creates wealth and jobs,” he said. Government can only create a climate for entrepreneurs to prosper.
Members of the audience were given placards reading “Texas Works” to emphasize the message.
A former lieutenant governor, Perry ascended to the governorship in late 2000 when Bush became president. He has since been reelected three times, and in his career dating to the 1980s, he has never lost an election in his home state.
That string was broken when he decided to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He entered late, not announcing formally until August 2011, but quickly rose to the top of the polls. But his candidacy cratered after a series of weak performances during a string of GOP debates that fall.
His most embarrassing moment came at a debate in Michigan when he faltered as he tried to remember the three agencies of government that he had pledged to eliminate if elected. “Oops,” he said apologetically when he finally acknowledged that he couldn’t remember the third.
The “oops” moment was an exclamation point that came to define his candidacy, though his fate was sealed earlier at a debate in Florida when he described opponents of a Texas plan to grant in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants as “heartless.” He never recovered from that episode, though he remained in the race for another two months.
Perry later said he learned a valuable lesson from his first presidential campaign, which is the cost of waiting too long to get in the race. He vowed that, if he were to run again, he would be far better prepared than he was the first time.
Though Perry was silent on the question of 2016, his advisers were peppered with questions from reporters after the event and did nothing to tamp down talk that he is already pointing toward another campaign.