Rick Perry launches gubernatorial bid
Rick Perry and wife Anita
greet supporters at Paint Creek School.
HASKELL, Texas - Hometown supporters and a crowd of cheering
students helped Rick Perry, the community's best-known graduate,
launch his gubernatorial campaign Tuesday.
Perry spoke to about 300 supporters and well-wishers -- some of
whom graduated with him -- in the small gymnasium of the school that
the governor attended for 12 years.
"It's such an honor to serve as your governor that I thought I
would come home to make an announcement," Perry said. "As I look out
across this room today, I am mindful of a common bond we share: the
privilege of being Texans."
Nene Comedy was one of Perry's 12 classmates at the school about
60 miles north of Abilene outside Haskell.
Perry has the experience and pride in Texas to serve as governor
"because of his beliefs and what he stands for," Comedy said after
Perry finished his comments kicking off his campaign. "He's a caring
person, understanding. He listens and does what he thinks is best
for the people."
Perry's West Texas roots helped foster a laid-back cowboy charm
and moxie, said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, who
knows the governor well.
The 51-year-old governor grew up outside Haskell, a small farming
and ranching community, near the Paint Creek school. Paint Creek
isn't really a town but the name of the area's school district. All
the district's 146 students attend class in the same school
building. Its motto is "No dream too tall for a school so small."
Combs recalled a time when black smoke began drifting from the
control panel as she and Perry were in a small plane on a statewide
swing. Perry stepped in, figured out the problem and wrapped the
backing from a campaign sticker around a troublesome wire.
Rick Perry announces his
candidacy this morning.
"That to me is real coolness in the face of adversity," Combs
said. "Mr. Cool, not fazed at all, says, 'we'll get down safely."'
Perry played six-man football, basketball and ran track at Paint
Creek. Perry attended Texas A&M University, where he was a member of
the Corps of Cadets and an Aggie yell leader. After graduating in
1972, Perry spent five years in the U.S. Air Force.
He stepped into politics in the mid-1980s, serving in the Texas
House from 1985 to 1991. He then was elected state agriculture
commissioner as a Republican, a post he held for eight years.
Perry joined the Republican Party in 1989 after he found himself
aligning increasingly with the GOP.
In 1998, he was elected lieutenant governor and ascended to the
state's highest office in December 2000 after George W. Bush was
In his first legislative session as governor, Perry vetoed a
record-setting 82 bills.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Perry prayed with
students at an organized event at a Palestine public school.
Afterward, he said he disagreed with the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that banned organized prayer and wants to make legalizing
school prayer a campaign issue.
The governor has promoted transportation and education policies
and has focused heavily on policies affecting the Texas-Mexico
Perry drew no Republican opponent for the March primary and will
spend the next few months campaigning to bolster his
Meanwhile, four Democrats -- Laredo millionaire businessman Tony
Sanchez, former state attorney general Dan Morales, Waxahachie
businessman Bill Lyon and Houston attorney John Worldpeace -- will
duke it out to oppose him in November.
Either Sanchez or Morales would make a formidable foe for Perry,
said Bill Miller, a political consultant.
"It'll be gloves off and brass knuckles from the get go."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)