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Continued: From once-underestimated to 'oops,' Perry reshaped Texas but faltered nationally _ so far

  • Article by: WILL WEISSERT , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 8, 2013 - 3:40 PM

Sullivan said of Perry's legacy: "He has held the line on government. He has created an economic engine that is the envy of the nation and has really stuck to his conservative principles and been successful doing so."

Perry's decision opens up the field to a wide swath of gubernatorial contenders. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is expected to seek the governorship and becomes the immediate front-runner. Spokesman Matt Hirsch said Monday that Abbott will announce his plans soon, and Abbott has said he plans to travel to many cities across the state.

Perry has been a leading voice on many social issues conservatives hold dear, including states' rights, relaxed environmental regulations, strict abortion limits and opposition to gay marriage.

An Eagle Scout, Perry urged the Boy Scouts not to accept openly gay youngsters. And the avid defender of gun rights once produced a laser-sighted pistol from his running shorts and shot a coyote while jogging in rural Austin.

Over the past decade, Texas has created a third of the net new jobs nationwide, though critics note Texas has a disproportionate percentage of hourly workers earning minimum wage or even less, according to federal employment data.

Perry also credits the state's relaxed regulatory climate and limits on civil lawsuits for job creation, though some have pointed to the consequences of little oversight, noting the West fertilizer plant explosion in April that killed 15 people was lightly regulated and even firefighters were unaware of the highly combustible chemicals inside.

Perry detractors also note that the governor opposes expanding Medicaid coverage in Texas — a centerpiece of the White House's health care reform — even though Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country.

Perry first won a seat in the Texas Legislature as a Democrat in 1984, when Texas was still reliably blue. As the state turned deeply red, Perry shifted too. Democrats have not captured a statewide office in nearly 20 years.

The opposition party insists, though, that a booming Hispanic population means it's only a matter of time before Texas switches back — a notion Perry has dismissed as a "pipe dream."

It didn't look so far-fetched last week, however, when Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis was on her feet for 12-plus hours as Democrats used the filibuster to help block sweeping new restrictions on abortion in Texas. She became a national political sensation, prompting many supporters to urge her to run for governor.

Perry's response was swift, immediately calling lawmakers back for an extra special session. He said he was confident they'd approve the law in record time.

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