SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history who famously muttered "oops" after forgetting during a 2011 presidential debate the third of three federal departments he'd pledged to close, announced Monday he won't seek re-election next year to a fourth full term.
A staunch Christian conservative, proven job-creator and fierce defender of states' rights, Perry has been in office nearly 13 years, making him the nation's longest-sitting current governor.
The 63-year-old ruled out another try for the White House in 2016, but Perry's decision not to run again for his current post likely clears the way for longtime Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to make a serious run at the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the March primary.
Perry had initially promised to divulge his future plans by July 1 but was forced to push that back following a rare political victory by state Democrats — a filibuster of abortion restrictions during the first 30-day special legislative session.
He called 30 more days of work to finish the job and suggested that would further delay his announcement, but then he distributed an email to a small group of friends and supporters last week promising he'd reveal "exciting future plans" Monday in San Antonio. The Caterpillar dealership he announced his plans at is the same place he announced his re-election bid for a third term in 2009.
Perry had never lost an election during his 27-year political career and became a near-instant front-runner when he strapped on his signature cowboy boots and strode into the crowded race for the GOP presidential nomination in August 2011. A ferocious fundraiser who was buoyed by both tea party activists and mainstream Republicans, Perry had presided over a Texas economy that was booming and had such TV anchorman good looks he was dubbed by some "governor good hair."