At noon today, Greg Abbott will officially become the 48th Governor of Texas. Rick Perry, number 47, will find himself permanently out of the gubernatorial mansion for the first time in more than 14 years. When Perry first assumed office, Bill Clinton was the president and the average UT freshman was four years old. In the years that have followed — sure to be called the "Rick Perry era" — Perry has demolished all records pertaining to longevity for Texas governors.
Perry's economic record is somewhat mixed and will surely be muddied by the recent oil glut, which has the capacity to wreck the so-called "Texas miracle." But along political lines, all should be able to agree on at least one of Perry's strengths: his unwavering commitments to his core principles.
In 2001, just months into Perry's term, he vetoed a record 83 bills from the state legislature. He vetoed obscure bills, big bills and bipartisan bills alike. Compared with House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, and Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, a very moderate Republican who would be excommunicated from his party today, Perry was right wing. Paul Burka, writing for Texas Monthly, opined in 2002 that "Laney and Ratliff represent the old order in Texas politics, Perry the new."
Fast forward to today, and everything has changed. Compared with Abbott and Dan Patrick, the new Lieutenant Governor, Perry is on the centrist end of his state party. When he ran for president in 2012, the other candidates cannibalized him on his perceived moderation on issues such as undocumented immigration. Looking forward to a probable second campaign in 2016, some have labeled Perry the "anti-Cruz" because of his establishment ties.
Certainly, Perry has not moved leftward in the past dozen years. At a time when the opposite is typically true of prominent Republicans, Perry has stuck to his guns and transformed from a far-right zealot to a pragmatic establishment type without ever really changing his policies or positions. Like him or not, that's respectable.
Horwitz is an associate editor.