No one should be surprised if Gov. Rick Perry doesn't reveal his next political move as soon as planned.
After Democrats blocked a restrictive abortion bill in the waning days of the first special session, Perry announced that he would call another.
Besides putting the abortion bill back on the agenda, he added the other two items that failed during the first called session — including transportation funding and a juvenile justice measure prosecutors say is needed to establish sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds who commit capital murder.
The move to bring lawmakers back yet again comes amid growing speculation that Perry is on the verge of announcing his retirement from statewide politics — thereby making Attorney Greg Abbott the instant favorite to replace him.
Perry had signaled that he would make his decision about the 2014 governor’s race known by July 1. But that turned out to be the day the next 30-day special session will begin. Governors like to have as much leverage as possible when lawmakers are in session, and Perry may conclude that being a lame duck would reduce his influence.
At a meeting of anti-abortion activists in Dallas last week, Perry said he would be too tied up with the new session to worry about his political future.
“We got work to do in Austin, so that is not on my radar screen at the moment," Perry said. Asked about the July 1 deadline, Perry told reporters that date is "probably put back some" but otherwise declined to be pinned down. He said he would make the announcement at the "appropriate time."
Perry became governor in December 2000 when George W. Bush resigned the office to become president, making him the longest-serving governor in Texas history by a wide margin.
Most political observers believe Perry will step aside in coming days to clear the path for Abbott, a close ally, but the farm boy from Haskell County has a long and colorful history of making unexpected political moves. So a re-election campaign for an unprecedented four-year fourth term can’t be ruled out.
The guessing game about Perry’s future took another couple of twists when sources said Mark Miner, a trusted former aide and spokesman, was returning to Team Perry as a senior adviser to the governor.
A new fundraising letter also provided a new tea leaf to read. Most candidates with statewide ambitions were furiously raising money ahead of a June 30 filing deadline. For those who want to impress other potential donors — or scare off competitors — the campaign finance reports represent an opportunity to advertise a big haul.
Perry hasn’t been hitting up donors with the intensity that Abbott and other have shown, but he is still raising dough. He won’t say what the money is for. (For the record, neither does Abbott in his latest fundraising missive.)
Of course, Perry spends money from his campaign all year long, so it could very well be he’s just keeping the coffers fat for travel purposes, paying staffers (including those at the Capitol) and conducting polls. Politics is a year-round endeavor.
“Let’s fight together, to continue our fiscally sound economic policies that have made Texas the economic beacon of opportunity in the nation and the world,” Perry writes in the letter.