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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.
“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:
Perry insists he was standing up for the rule of law when he vetoed funding for a local prosecutor jailed for drunken driving
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
AUSTIN, Texas (CFP) — With a defiant and determined tone, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry is vowing to fight his indictment on two felony charges stemming from his veto of a funding bill for an Austin prosecutor who refused his demand that she resign after being arrested for drunken driving.
“I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again, I would make the exact same decision,” Perry said in an interview with Fox News Sunday on August 17. “This is not the way that we settle … political differences in this country. You don’t do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box.”
A grand jury in Travis County, which includes Austin, indicted Perry on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion stemming from his veto of $7.5 million in funding for a public integrity unit in the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. If convicted, he could face prison time.
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. She pleaded guilty and served 20 days in jail.
Perry demanded the Lehmberg resign and threatened to veto funding for the public integrity unit — which investigates elected officials across Texas — if she refused to go. When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry vetoed the funding.
“I had lost confidence in her. The public had lost confidence in her. And I did what every governor has done for decades, which is make a decision on whether or not it was in the proper use of state money to go to that agency,” Perry told Fox News Sunday.
Many Republicans in Texas, including Perry, have long been critical of the public integrity unit, saying it empowers Democratic prosecutors elected in Democrat-leaning Travis County to launch politically motivated investigations of Republicans.
A Republican judge appointed a special prosecutor, San Antonio attorney Mike McCrum, to investigate the circumstances of Perry’s veto after a complaint was filed by a liberal advocacy group.
Early in the Obama administration, McCrum had been considered for an appointment as a federal prosecutor, with the backing of Texas’s two GOP senators. But he withdrew his name in 2010 after the appointment stalled in the Senate.
Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, is not running for re-election this year. But he is considering making a bid for the White House in 2016, after making an unsuccessful presidential run in 2012.