Posted on December 31, 2013 at 8:45 PM
Tuesday, Dec 31 at 9:00 PM
AUSTIN -- One simple sentence spoken by Gov. Rick Perry on a hot July afternoon in San Antonio would instantly change the landscape of Texas politics.
"I will not seek reelection as governor of Texas," Perry told a crowd of supporters gathered inside the warehouse of Holt Cat, an industrial equipment dealership owned by friend and supporter Peter Holt. In an often emotional speech, Gov. Perry recalled some of the moments during his tenure he will never forget.
"Visiting those shelters set up for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Ike as Texas showed the nation we are a people rich with compassion," said Perry.
"I'll think of the heroes we lost in the Texas sky when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry," said Perry. "I'll be continually moved by the day Wallace Jefferson took the oath of office as our first African American Supreme Court Justice, the descendant of a man sold as a slave on the steps of a Central Texas courthouse who now is the chief justice of our highest civil court."
The afternoon of July 8, 2013 marked the beginning of the end of a dynasty that began more than a decade ago. After then-Gov. George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States in November 2000, the job of finishing Bush's term fell to the lieutenant governor. Joined by the president-elect inside the Texas Capitol, 50-year-old Lt. Gov. Rick Perry was sworn in as the state's 47th governor on December 21.
Perry would be elected to three consecutive four-year terms over the next 13 years, handily beating Democratic opponents as well as challengers from within his own party, including sitting Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). The longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry has had more opportunity to shape the role of his office than any other.
"Rick Perry, during his more than a decade as a governor, has defined what Texas is," said Dallas Morning News senior political writer Wayne Slater, who has covered Texas and national politics for twenty years.
Politically, Perry strengthened the constitutionally weak office's power to make policy by skillfully wielding influence and appointments. In his role as statesman, he defined Texas to the nation as a business friendly state with low taxes and regulations. At the same time, he was the chief representative of a dominant state Republican Party.
"For the party, his legacy is going to be that we had our most significant gains numerically and he's leaving us in a very strong position going into 2014," Republican Party of Texas chairman Steve Munisteri told KVUE in August.
Perry's July announcement also marked the de facto beginning of the 2014 political season. Just six days later, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott launched his campaign to succeed Perry.
With the ladder to the top of the ballot reopened, the next several months would feature dozens of mostly Republican candidates announcing campaigns for higher office. On the Democratic ticket, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) launched her gubernatorial campaign in October. Davis and Abbott are expected to ultimately vie for Perry's seat next November, with state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) facing the winner of a fierce Republican primary for lieutant governor which features some of the state's most well known political figures.
"We are going to see for the first time in more than a decade, real changes in the offices at the top of the state ticket," said Slater. Yet Perry's successor will face what may be one of his most lasting legacies. Over 13 years, Perry has made more than 7,000 appointments to leadership positions at every level of state government.
"The next governor will inherit the office, but it will not be the same office," Texas Politics Project director and University of Texas Prof. James R. Henson told KVUE in a July interview. "The next governor, in a way, will have to reset, and in a lot of cases, will have a lot of people whose primary loyalties are not to the current governor at all, but to Governor Perry."
After an unsuccessful campaign for president in 2012, the governor has hinted he may not be done with politics just yet. Perry has launched numerous ad campaigns across the country touting Texas' economic success. In a November interview in the presidential caucus state of Iowa, he suggested the problems that plagued his first run for the White House wouldn't stand in the way of another attempt.
"I think second chances are what America's always been about," Perry told ABC's This Week.
Yet in the July speech where he announced his intention to leave the governor's office at the end of his term, he made his feelings about the post he's defined clear.
"It is the greatest job in modern politics."
Stay tuned this week for more of the 2013 political year in review, including more on state Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Ted Cruz.