SAN ANTONIO — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in the state’s history and an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 2012, announced Monday he will not seek re-election in 2014 amid speculation that he will run again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
He said he would continue actively as governor until his term expires but made no explicit statement about what might come after that.
Perry’s decision not to run for a fourth full term will usher in a new era in Texas politics. For the past two decades, the governor’s mansion has been in the hands of two politicians, George W. Bush and Perry.
With Bush in retirement after two terms as president and Perry, 63, exiting the state stage, a new generation of Republicans will come to the forefront. They include Sen. Ted Cruz, who was just elected in 2012 and has made a mark in Washington with his conservative positions and sharp tongue, and who, like Perry, could become a presidential candidate in 2016.
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Even before Perry made his announcement, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, had made no secret of his desire to run for governor. With Perry’s decision, he will be able to move ahead.
Perry’s announcement came as a special session of the Texas Legislature continued work in Austin on a bill to restrict abortions. A similar measure died during a special session last month after an 11-hour filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, and as a chorus of demonstrators chanted from the galleries as time in the session expired.
Perry used the setting to review his record, particularly on jobs and the economy. “Today Texas is the envy of the nation,” he said.
Perry said 30 percent of the net new jobs created over the past decade have been in Texas. “It’s the private sector that creates wealth and jobs,” he said, adding that government can only create a climate for entrepreneurs to prosper.
Members of the audience were given placards reading “Texas Works” to emphasize the message.
A former lieutenant governor, Perry ascended to the governorship in late 2000 when Bush became president. He has been re-elected three times, and in his career dating to the 1980s, he has never lost an election in his home state.
That string was broken when he decided to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He entered late, not announcing formally until August 2011, but quickly rose to the top of the polls. But his candidacy cratered after a series of weak performances during a string of GOP debates that fall.
His most embarrassing moment came at a debate in Michigan when he faltered as he tried to remember the three agencies of government that he had pledged to eliminate if elected. “Oops,” he said apologetically when he finally acknowledged that he couldn’t remember the third.