Speculation Mounts as Decision Nears for Perry

Gov. Rick Perry leaves the House chamber after speaking and visiting with members on May 13, 2013.
Gov. Rick Perry leaves the House chamber after speaking and visiting with members on May 13, 2013.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry is on the verge of deciding whether or not to run for re-election, and speculation is mounting that he will step aside and make Attorney General Greg Abbott his likely successor.

It’s too early to say anything even remotely definitive. And people close to Perry, who has a long and colorful history of making sudden and unexpected decisions about his future, warn that he could jump in with both feet at any moment. Either way a decision is near: Perry told Bloomberg, for a story that ran Wednesday, that he would make his intentions known before July 1.

In the meantime, it has not escaped notice that Perry has been on the East Coast talking about economic development while other candidates for high statewide office are busy talking about their futures and the need for financial support.

“He’s up in New York, and he’s not here raising money that I know of,” said one major Republican operative. “He’s not actively doing any fundraising while he’s up there.” However, Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor's state campaign began accepting donations online Tuesday and has a fundraising letter "in the works." 

Candidates were barred by state law from raising money through last weekend, which marked the end of the period in which bills from the 83rd Legislature could be signed or vetoed. The next fundraising reporting period ends June 30, and candidates are eager to post a big number to show their viability.

 

Abbott and other Republicans in down-ballot races, from state comptroller to lieutenant governor, have wasted no time issuing urgent appeals for money over the last two weeks of the month.

“Can you help me stay in the fight with a donation to our campaign before the June deadline?” Abbott asks potential donors in a recent solicitation. His wife, Cecilia, sent out a separate appeal noting the June 30 reporting cutoff and saying Abbott “couldn’t be more focused on the victory for Texas.”

Abbott had more than $18 million in the bank at the beginning of the year, giving him the fattest campaign account in state politics. Perry had about $6 million at last count. Abbott has been careful not to say publicly what he is running for as long as Perry is still mulling what to do, but he’ll automatically be the prohibitive favorite in the March GOP primary if the governor gets out. 

“A decision has not been made,” said Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch. “What you’ve seen Gen. Abbott say is he’s going to make his decision once the session has ended.” Hirsch said the statement applies to the ongoing special session, which ends early next week.

In a hypothetical matchup between the two Republican stalwarts, Perry was leading Abbott 45-19 in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. With little prospect of a competitive Democratic contender for governor at this point, the winner of the Republican nomination will be the immediate front-runner for the November 2014 election.

If Perry has made a decision, he has done a good job keeping it under wraps. One longtime Perry friend and ally said the governor has sent mixed signals about his future plans, but the lack of a major fundraising push this week and the absence of any overt moves to build up a re-election campaign are being cited as evidence that Perry is leaning against running for an unprecedented fourth term.

“If I had a gut feeling, it’s that he’s not going to run, but I don’t know that,” the friend said. “I don’t know if that burning desire is still there.” The source cautioned that Perry can’t be counted out for a re-election run but said he seems to be more interested in another stab at the White House.

Mark Miner, a former Perry spokesman, said the longest-serving governor in Texas history doesn’t have the same obstacles other candidates have and predicted he would be re-elected if he went for it.

“If he decides to run, he would win,” Miner said. “And he has had no problem in the past raising money or putting together a team. Ask the many Texas opponents who are at home watching re-runs right now.”

 

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