DALLAS — Anti-Washington fervor in Tuesday’s primary helped Texas Gov. Rick Perry win the GOP nomination to run for an unprecedented third term and set the stage for the once-powerful Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to retire from politics.
“I think the message is pretty clear,” Perry said in his victory speech. “Conservatism has never been stronger than it is today. We’re taking our country back, one vote at a time, one election at a time.”
Perry, who once suggested the state might secede from the United States despite its role as a major American military bastion, succeeded in fending off Tea Party challenger Debra Medina, who came in third.
Ironically, Perry is now talked about as a potential candidate for president of the country he has considered seceding from. Perry’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion was former President George W. Bush.
By portraying Hutchison as a Washington insider, Perry captured enough Tea Party support to keep Medina at bay, though she captured nearly 20% of the vote. Perry used former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, idolized by many in the Tea Party, in his campaign appearances.
Hutchison, whose husband Ray Hutchison also lost a race for governor in the 1970s, has not announced her plans for when her Senate term ends. Ray Hutchison is bond counsel and partner at the law firm Vinson & Elkins in Dallas.
Perry now faces former Houston Mayor Bill White, who easily won the Democratic primary. White plans to challenge Perry’s resistance to extended unemployment benefits and other mainstream programs.
Since Texas has not elected a Democratic governor in two decades, White has a stiff challenge in unseating Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor. The Democratic primary attracted less than half the votes cast in the Republican governor’s race.
Perry’s hostility toward Washington in the race came as the state boasted it had already spent $2.25 billion of the transportation funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the Texas Department of Transportation touted its success in putting the money to work, Perry has been chastising Hutchison for the stimulus funding, even though she opposed it.
Hutchison, who has been instrumental in transportation funding for the state, challenged Perry’s support for toll roads, one of the top issues in recent years.