Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, touts his executive experience in campaign kickoff
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ADDISON, Texas (CFP) — Charging that Americans “are at the end of an era of failed leadership,” former Texas Governor Rick Perry launched his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination by touting his experience as the longest-serving governor in the history of the Lone Star State.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry
“Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. And we will not find the kind of leadership needed to revitalize the country by looking to the political class in Washington,” Perry said at his campaign kickoff at an airport in Addison, a Dallas suburb.
“I have been tested. I have led the most successful state in America. I have dealt with crisis after crisis, from the disintegration of a space shuttle to hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, to the crisis at the border and the first diagnosis of Ebola in America.”
Perry, 65, a former Air Force officer who was a cotton farmer in West Texas before getting into politics, left office in January after serving 14 years as governor. He began his political life in 1984 as a Democrat before switching the GOP in 1989, as it became ascendent in Texas politics.
In 2012, Perry unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination. He entered the campaign as one of the frontrunners, only to see his stock plummet after a series of of gaffes, including a moment in a debate when he could not remember the name of a federal agency he had previously pledged to abolish.
Perry — who later blamed his faltering 2012 performance on lack of preparation and the aftereffects of back surgery — did not mention his first campaign during his kickoff rally. But he did offer scathing criticism of President Barack Obama’s leadership.
“We have been led by a divider who has sliced and diced the electorate, pitting American against American for political purposes,” he said. “Weakness at home has led to weakness abroad. The world has descended into a chaos of this president’s own making, while his White House loyalists construct an alternative universe where ISIS is contained and Ramadi is merely a setback.”
Perry also decried what he called “the arrogance of Washington DC, representing itself as some beacon of wisdom, with policies smothering this vast land with no regard for what makes each state and community unique.”
He also sounded a note of economic populism, saying “it is time to create real jobs, to raise wages, to create opportunity for all, to give every citizen a stake in this country, to restore hope — real hope — to forgotten Americans, millions of middle class families who have given up hope of getting ahead.”
As he pursues the presidency, Perry is also battling felony charges of abuse of power and coercion brought by a prosecutor in Austin stemming from his veto, as governor, of $7.5 million in funding for a public integrity unit in the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
In April 2013, Lehmberg, a Democrat, was arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, and video showed her being combative with the arresting officers. Perry demanded the Lehmberg resign and, when she didn’t, followed through with a threat to veto funding for the unit.
Perry has vowed to fight the charges, which he has dismissed as politically motivated.
Perry is one of eight Southern Republicans who have launched, or are expected to launch, presidential bids in 2016.
Those already in the race include former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Also expected to enter the race are Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida.
The Southern GOP field, then, is divided equally between senators and governors. Two of the last three Republicans elected president — George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan — served as governor. The last GOP senator elected to the presidency was Warren Harding in 1920.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas who went on to be elected to the Senate from New York.
Watch the video of Perry’s campaign kickoff: