News Column

Will Rick Perry Step Down as Texas Governor?

July 8, 2013

At a thriving East Side business, Gov. Rick Perry will lay out his political plans Monday afternoon before a select group of supporters and a national media audience.

Ending more than a year of speculation, the nation's longest-serving governor will disclose whether he'll seek a fourth term in 2014 or leave the Governor's Mansion to pursue national aspirations in 2016.

While many Republicans expect Perry to relinquish the office he's held since 2000, the governor wouldn't tip his hand on Fox News Sunday.

"I suppose you need to be there in San Antonio tomorrow and find out with everyone else," Perry said, dodging multiple questions about his decision.

Asked if he'd run for president in 2016, Perry responded: "Certainly, that's an option out there, but again, we got a lot of work to do in this building (Texas Capitol) right behind me over the course of the next couple of weeks that have my focus, substantially more than even 2014 or 2016."

Queried about the ongoing legislative debate over abortion, Perry told Fox News Sunday that the second special session underway could be over quickly and that this time Democrats won't block proposed abortion restrictions as they did in the first special session.

"We can be in and out of here in 10 days," Perry said.

Lawmakers started the second special session July 1 and recessed for the July Fourth holiday with plans to reconvene Tuesday. On the idle day Monday, Perry will make his long-awaited announcement that could rattle Texas and national politics.

Last week, Perry's campaign alerted supporters to Monday's invitation-only event without providing specifics beyond its time of 1 p.m. On Friday, a source close to Perry said the event would be at Holt Cat, a Caterpillar heavy-equipment dealership based on South W.W. White Road. Spurs majority owner Peter Holt, who has contributed large sums to Perry campaigns, is CEO of Holt Cat.

If Perry doesn't seek another term, several GOP contenders led by Attorney General Greg Abbott are expected to run for governor in 2014, and Abbott's move would prompt a scramble for his office.

In another presidential bid -- his 2012 attempt fizzled -- Perry likely would cite Texas' strong economy as epitomized by Holt's bustling operation, the nation's largest Caterpillar dealership. And while Holt has been generous to Perry, Perry has supported Holt's industry. When Caterpillar Inc. in 2009 chose to build a $170 million engine-manufacturing plant in Seguin, the company was lured in part by a $10 million incentive from Perry through the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Perry, 63, who hails from Paint Creek, had a ranching background and military experience before entering politics. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M in 1972, then joined the Air Force and served as a pilot until 1977, attaining the rank of captain.

Elected from his West Texas hometown to the Texas House in 1984, he served until 1990 before deciding to seek higher office. Running for agriculture commissioner, he toppled a Democratic incumbent and began building a statewide base. Perry served as ag commissioner until 1998.

That year, Perry was elected lieutenant governor, where he presided over the Texas Senate through 2000, until higher duty called. When then-Gov. George W. Bush was elected president and resigned state office, Perry took over Dec. 20, 2000.

His current term ends Dec. 31, 2014.

jgonzalez@express-news.net

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