AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry promised friends and top fundraisers Tuesday he’d reveal “exciting future plans” next week in San Antonio, sparking wide speculation he will announce if he’ll run again for governor.
In a campaign email, Perry doesn’t provide further details or even a location for Monday’s gathering, saying simply that more details will be forthcoming. But in recent weeks he has said an announcement about whether he plans to seek a fourth full term in office next year will come soon.
The Republican is already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, taking over when George W. Bush left for the White House. Perry’s also the longest-sitting governor in the U.S.
A second run for president in 2016 is also a possibility for Perry, who hasn’t ruled out another White House bid but has said he won’t decide on that matter until later this year. His previous bid for the GOP presidential nomination fizzled in 2011.
Perry’s email begins with the greeting “Howdy Friends” before quickly advising “Please save the date.”
“Governor Rick Perry, Aggie, the longest-serving Governor of the great state of Texas and friend, will be making an announcement around mid day in San Antonio concerning his exciting future plans!,” the email continues. “Please join his family and closest friends on July 8th.”
It was sent by some of Perry’s friends from his alma mater, Texas A&M University — hence the “Aggie” reference — and concludes by saying “details to follow.”
Ray Sullivan, who was communications director for Perry’s presidential campaign, said, “I think this is probably the announcement about his gubernatorial future.”
But when pressed on what Perry might say, Sullivan responded, “The only real way to know what Rick Perry’s political future is involves listening to Rick Perry.”
“There will be, and should be, some mystery to the announcement until he actually makes it,” he said, adding that Perry “has historically shown the ability to change on a dime his political ambitions.”
If Perry opts to run again, it could mean a primary dogfight with fellow Republican and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has a formidable $18 million in his campaign war chest — more than three times what Perry has raised.
The governor has said he and Abbott have agreed not to run against each other, but Abbott hasn’t confirmed that. Matt Hirsch, an Abbott campaign spokesman, declined to comment except to say his candidate “will be making his intention clear in the coming weeks.”
Making the announcement in San Antonio puts Perry in a heavily Hispanic city at a time when Battleground Texas, a group led by former staffers from President Barack Obama’s successful re-election campaign, is trying to turn Texas Democratic — given the state’s surging Hispanic population.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro spoke at the Democratic National Convention last year and has often been mentioned as a future gubernatorial candidate, though he hasn’t confirmed any future plans.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said Tuesday of Perry: “I hope he decides to run. We would love to have our candidate run against him. His negatives on so many issues statewide are very high.”
Perry’s email went to such a small group that many top fundraisers and even former campaign staffers said they didn’t receive it. Steve Heinrich, treasurer for the Republican Party of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, was surprised when told of Monday’s announcement.
“One of the hardest things to do in politics is to know how to quit while you’re ahead,” Heinrich said.
Whatever he decides, the announcement may give Perry a chance to steady himself politically after a tough week.
Perry called a 30-day special legislative session after the regular one ended May 27 and put passing sweeping new limits on abortion statewide on lawmakers’ agenda. But Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, a former teenage mom, filibustered for more than 12 hours on the final day to block the wide-ranging abortion bill while hundreds of abortion rights activists packed the Capitol.
When Republican senators used parliamentary tactics to silence Davis, protesters screamed and chanted so loudly that all legislative work halted and the bill wasn’t passed until after midnight and the end of the session.
Davis became an overnight national political sensation and is now being urged to run for governor. Perry called a second session that began Monday and says he’s confident lawmakers will pass the abortion bill. He was roundly criticized, though, for subsequently wondering aloud what might have happened had Davis’ mother chosen to abort her given the future senator’s tough upbringing.
Meanwhile, convening the second special session forced Perry to delay previous plans to make an announcement about his future. He had suggested he would divulge his re-election plans last week, but then said sending lawmakers back to work would make him “push it back some.”
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