He is a fifth generation Texan, the son of hardscrabble west Texas tenant farmers – Democrats but conservatives through and through. He grew up in a farm town too small to be on the state map. Life was so hard that he was six years old before his house had indoor plumbing. His mother sewed his clothes, including the underwear he wore to college.
He is an Eagle Scout. After Paint Creek High School , he attended Texas A&M, graduated, and was commissioned into the Air Force where he became a C-130 pilot.
Now 61 years old, he has won nine elections to four different offices in Texas state government. In the first three elections he ran as a Democrat then switched to the Republican Party. He is currently the 47th governor of Texas – a position he has held for 11 years, the longest tenure of any governor in the nation.
He has never lost an election.
Rick Perry was the Lieutenant Governor to whom Governor George Bush handed over the office after winning the 2000 Presidential election. Since then, Perry won gubernatorial elections in 2002, 2004, and 2010, the last time by 55% against a field consisting of a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Green Party, and an Independent.
Since he became its Governor, Texas – a right to work state that taxes neither personal income nor capital gains – has added more jobs than the other 49 states combined. In the last two years, low taxes and little regulation led his state to create 47% of all jobs created in the entire nation. Five of the top ten cities with the highest job growth in the nation are in Texas . People follow jobs, so in the last four years for which data are available, Texas led every state in net interstate migration growth.
Perry signed ground-breaking “loser pays” tort reform and medical litigation rules that caused malpractice insurance rates to fall. Some 20,000 doctors have since moved to Texas .
Texas boasts 58 of the Fortune 500 companies – more than any other state. Since May 2011 Texas resumed its pre-recession employment levels. Only two other states and the District of Columbia have done that.
Texas ships 16% of the nation’s export value. California trails at 11%. Of the 70 companies that have fled California so far in 2011, 14 relocated in Texas .
In this year’s Texas legislative season, Perry got most of what he wanted. With no new taxes, a fiscally lean state budget was passed leaving $6 billion in a rainy day fund even as other states around the country struggled to balance budgets and avoid more deficit borrowing. A voter ID bill passed that was designed to prevent ballot box fraud and illegal voting. A bill passed that makes plaintiffs pay court costs and attorney fees if their suits are deemed frivolous.
Perry scored points even in his legislative failures. He failed to get sanctuary cities banned – Texas towns in which police cannot question detainees about their immigration status. The blame fell on the legislature. Perry also failed to get a so-called “anti-groping” bill passed that would put Transportation Security Administration agents in prison if they touch the genitals, anus, or breasts of passengers in a pat down. Federal officials threatened to halt all flights out of Texas airports and the bill died in special session. That endeared Texans even more to TSA employees living in Texas .
Perry jogs daily in the morning. He has no bodyguard with him, but his daughter’s dog runs by his side and he carries a laser-guided automatic pistol in his belt. Last year while jogging in an undeveloped area, a coyote paralleled his jogging route, eyeing his dog. He drew his pistol and killed the animal with one shot, leaving it where it fell. “He became mulch,” Perry said. Animal rights groups protested, but Perry shrugged it off. “Don’t come after my dog,” he warned them.
Recently, Obama asked Perry to delay the July 7 execution of Humberto Leal in order to comply with the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Perry refused. Therefore Obama asked the US Supreme Court to delay the execution because it would damage US foreign relations. The Court refused 5-4 and Perry ordered the execution to go forward as scheduled. Over the howls of diplomats, politicians, and the UN, Leal was administered a lethal injection at 6:20 p.m. Before he died, he admitted his guilt and asked for forgiveness.
The case has special implications for Perry, who is considering a run for the presidency in 2012. Even his critics resent federal interference in a Texas execution, which is related to a state, not a federal, crime – an alcohol and drug-fueled rape and murder 17 years ago by an illegal whose family brought him into the country 35 years ago as a child. The interference hinges not on the man’s guilt, which Leal’s advocates acknowledged, but on a technicality – failure to inform Leal that he could have gotten legal representation from the Mexican consulate in lieu of the court-appointed attorneys who represented him. Independent Texans saw Obama’s interference as another intrusion of federal power into the affairs of a state, which could cost Obama support in other states.
Needless to say, Perry is a hard-edged conservative and a ferocious defender of 10th Amendments rights (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”) – an explicit restriction of the federal government to only those powers granted in the Constitution. Perry accuses the federal government, especially the Obama administration, of illegal overreach.
Perry said “no thanks” to the feds whose stimulus offered taxpayer dollars for education and unemployment assistance. The strings on “free money” from Washington , he said, would restrict Texas in managing its own affairs. Perry even depleted all state funds to fight recent wildfires before asking Washington for disaster relief. His request has been ignored, which comes across as an unvarnished federal power play, further pitting Perry and Texans against the federal government.