James Richard "Rick" Perry (born March 4, 1950) is the 47th and current Governor of Texas. A Republican, Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 1998 and assumed the governorship in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. Perry was elected to full gubernatorial terms in 2002, 2006 and 2010. With a tenure in office to date of 10 years, 237 days, Perry is the longest continuously serving current U.S. governor, and the second longest serving current U.S. governor after Terry Branstad of Iowa. Perry served as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2008 (succeeding Sonny Perdue of Georgia) and again in 2011. Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas state history. As a result, he is the only governor in modern Texas history to have appointed at least one person to every eligible state office, board, or commission position (as well as to several elected offices to which the governor can appoint someone to fill an unexpired term, such as six of the nine current members of the Texas Supreme Court). Perry won the Texas 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary election, defeating U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Wharton County Republican Party Chairwoman and businesswoman Debra Medina. In the 2010 Texas gubernatorial election, Perry won a third term by defeating former Houston mayor Bill White and Kathie Glass. On August 13, 2011, Perry announced that he was running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2012 presidential election.
A fifth-generation Texan, Rick Perry was born in Paint Creek, about 60 miles (97 km) north of Abilene in West Texas, to ranchers Joseph Ray Perry and the former Amelia June Holt. His father, a Democrat, was a long-time Haskell County commissioner and school board member. Perry graduated from Paint Creek High School in 1968. As a child, Perry was in the Boy Scouts (BSA) and earned the rank of Eagle Scout; his son, Griffin, would also later become an Eagle Scout. Perry attended Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and one of A&M's five yell leaders. Perry was a prankster in college.
He once placed chickens in the closet of an upperclassman over Christmas, and also utilized M-80 firecrackers and knowledge of plumbing to frighten students on the toilet. Upon graduation, he was commissioned in the United States Air Force, completed pilot training and flew C-130 tactical airlift in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe until 1977. He left the Air Force with the rank of captain, returned to Texas and went into business farming cotton with his father.
In 1982, Rick married Anita Thigpen, his childhood sweetheart whom he had known since elementary school. They have two children, Griffin and Sydney. Anita Perry attended West Texas State University and earned a degree in nursing. She has spearheaded a number of health-related initiatives such as the Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which focuses on nutrition, cardiovascular disease, health education, and early childhood programming. Perry has said that his interest in politics probably began in November 1961, when his father took him to the funeral of U.S.
Representative Sam Rayburn (D-TX), who during his long public career served as speaker of the Texas House for a short time at the age of 29 and then later for 17 years as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Dignitaries from all over the nation came to the small town of Bonham, the seat of Fannin County, for the service.
House of Representatives
In 1984, Perry was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat from district 64 that included his home county of Haskell. He served on the House Appropriations and Calendars committees during his three two-year terms in office. He befriended fellow freshman state representative Lena Guerrero of Austin, a staunch liberal Democrat who endorsed Perry's reelection bid in 2006 on personal, rather than philosophical, grounds. Perry was part of the "Pit Bulls", a group of Appropriations members who sat on the lower dais in the committee room (or "pit") who pushed for austere state budgets during the 1980s. Perry supported Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries as chairman of the Gore campaign in Texas. In 1989, Perry announced that he was joining the Republican Party.
In 1990, as a newly minted Republican, he challenged incumbent Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. As Agriculture Commissioner, Perry was responsible for promoting the sale of Texas farm produce to other states and foreign nations and supervising the calibration of weights and measures, such as gasoline pumps and grocery store scales. In 1994, Perry was reelected Agriculture Commissioner by a large margin, having polled 2,546,287 votes (61.92 %) to Democrat Marvin Gregory's 1,479,692 (35.98 %).
In 1998, Perry chose not to seek a third term as Agriculture Commissioner, running instead for Lieutenant Governor to succeed the retiring Democrat Bob Bullock. Rick Perry thus became the state's first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction, taking office on January 19, 1999, until he assumed the governorship on December 21, 2000 following the resignation of then-Governor George W. Bush.
Governor of Texas
Perry assumed the office of Governor late in 2000 when George W. Bush resigned as governor of Texas to prepare for his presidential inauguration. Perry became the first Texas A&M graduate to serve as governor. The 2006 gubernatorial election proved to be a stiffer challenge. Though he easily defeated token opposition in the primary election, Perry faced three major opponents. Rick Perry became only the third governor in state history to have been elected by a plurality of less than 40 percent of votes cast (the 1853 and 1861 races also featured plurality winners carrying under 40 %). As of August 2011, Texas has a 8.2% unemployment rate, compared to 4.2% when Perry took office in January 2001. In comparison, the national unemployment rate was 4.2% in January 2001, and 9.1% in August 2011. 25 states have a lower unemployment rate than Texas, and 25 states (including the District of Columbia) have a higher unemployment rate, meaning that Texas has median unemployment among U.S. states.
Rick Perry has persistently denied aspirations to higher office; he was originally included on the 2012 Presidential Straw Poll ballot at the Values Voter Summit in September 2009, but his name was removed at his own request. In April 2008 while appearing as a guest on CNBC's Kudlow & Company, he specifically stated that he would not agree to serve as Vice President in a McCain administration, stating that he already had "the best job in the world" as Governor of Texas. Further, during a Republican gubernatorial debate in January 2010, when asked if he would commit to serving out his term if re-elected, he replied that "the place hasn't been made yet" where he would rather serve than the Governor of Texas.