Gov. Rick Perry’s departure gives Texas its first open governor’s race since 1990
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
SAN ANTONIO (CFP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision not to seek a fourth full term as the Lone Star State’s chief executive in 2014 has opened up the field, with GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott seen as a prohibitive favorite to succeed the colorful and frequently controversial incumbent.
Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, announced July 8 that he would not run to serve another four years in what he called “the greatest job in modern politics.”
Quoting the “time for every season” passage from the Book of Ecclisiasties, Perry said, “The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership.” He also said he would “pray and reflect” on his future plans but was mum on whether he will seek the presidency in 2016.
Abbott, 55, from Wichita Falls, was appointed as a justice to the Texas Supreme Court by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1996. He ran for attorney general in 2002 when John Cornyn left that job in a successful bid for the U.S. Senate, and has been re-elected twice.
Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since the age of 26, when he was injured by a falling tree, has raised a staggering, Texas-sized $18 million for the governor’s race, with two years still to go.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2012, has said he plans to run for re-election rather than trying to move up to the top post. If he sticks to that position, it would clear away one possible hurdle for Abbott.
Tom Pauken, a former state GOP chairman and state workforce commissioner from Port Aransas, has announced a bid for governor. Debra Medina, a Ron Paul acolyte from Wharton who challenged Perry in the 2010 GOP primary, has also said she’s considering a bid, and a Facebook page has been set up to draft her into the race.
On the Democratic side, the pickings are slender, which is not surprising given Texas’ strong GOP bent.
Both San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Houston Mayor Bill White, who lost to Perry in 2010, have declined to run. State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who became the heroine of the abortion movement by successfully filibustering an anti-abortion bill in June 2013, is being mentioned as a possibility.
Also being mentioned is Annise Parker, the openly lesbian mayor of Houston. She easily won re-election as mayor of the state’s largest city in 2011.
The last time Texas didn’t have an incumbent running in the governor’s race was in 1990, when Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican Clayton Williams. Richards lost four years later to Bush, who won re-election in 1998. Perry became governor when Bush was elected president in 2000 and won re-election in 2002, 2006 and 2010.