Four Mo(FO) Years


The soon-to-be longest-serving governor in Texas history says he wants to extend his run. James Richard “Rick” Perry has declared he will campaign for another term. The governor made the announcement to a handful of surprised reporters during a National Governors Association forum in Grapevine on April 17.

By the end of his current term, Perry will have been in office a decade, making him Texas’ longest-tenured governor. (The runner-up, Bill Clements, served eight years over two nonconsecutive terms.) If Perry wins again in two years, his administration will be on track to last 14 years-longer than the lifespan of most dogs. Every dog has its day. Let’s hope Perry has had his.

In his last election, Perry won only 39 percent of the vote against a lackluster-to be kind-field of opponents. Presumably, the competition in 2010 will be more robust. On the Republican side, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Lite Gov David Dewhurst both appear to want the job. Hutchison is the most popular elected official in the state, but is too moderate for Republican hard-liners. Dewhurst can barely run the state Senate, but has plenty of money and more ambition than sense. For Democrats, the strongest contender so far is Houston Mayor Bill White. While admittedly on the bland side, White has won bipartisan plaudits for his management of the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Some speculate that Perry’s announcement is a ploy to strengthen his hand in the 2009 legislative session. For the moment, let’s take him at his word. “I’m a firm believer that experience does matter,” Perry was quoted as saying in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

We believe that the experience of Perry as top dog in Texas has been a disaster. For too many Texans, the quality of life in this state is abysmal. More than a quarter of us have no health insurance-the highest percentage in the nation. We rank among the top 10 in the gap between rich and poor. Our state spends less money per resident than any other state in the country. One out of every three students fails to graduate from our public high schools. Presented with a historic opportunity in 2006 to improve Texas schools, Perry rushed a plan through the Lege that did little to improve education. Last year, Texas surpassed California as the nation’s leader in imprisoning its citizens. We also lead the nation in putting people to death. That should scare the bejesus out of even death penalty proponents, since it’s increasingly evident that we excel at convicting the innocent. Texas’ governmental failures are too numerous to catalog here. As readers of the Observer know, Perry has only exacerbated this tale of woe.

What our governor excels at is using the machinery of government to reward special interests, usually the ones who donate to his campaigns. His money-raising prowess is on display in this issue’s Political Intelligence column (see “Hog at the Trough,” page 4). Perry has exhibited a mania for privatizing state assets and shoveling taxpayer money into the coffers of private corporations.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. We are in the midst of an unparalleled demographic shift in this state. It’s seen in the faces of a huge, young minority population whose families are struggling just to survive. To avoid future ruin, we need to make social investments in these folks now. Above all, we need a governor who can view the situation clearly, and not through the myopia of ideology or self-interest.