Texas is not typically a battleground state. In fact, Texas has voted reliably for the Republican nominee for president for the last 40 years. The only exception was 1976, when the state went for Jimmy Carter. It is safe to say that control of the governor’s office in Texas has dictated who the state votes for in the presidential elections for the last decade and a half.
With the strong likelihood of a Republican governor being elected in 2010, the 2012 election may not be any different.
In the 2008 presidential election, Texas delivered its 34 electoral votes to John McCain by a substantial margin (55.44% of the total vote). In this year’s “off” elections, there are three major candidates for the Republican nomination for governor: Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Debra Medina. The last is a newcomer to electoral politics and has just recently been certified to take part in the Republican debates on January 29.
Rick Perry started his political career as a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, becoming a Republican in 1989. That same year, the Dallas Morning News named him one of the most effective legislators in the state. Perry became the state’s first ever Republican lieutenant governor in 1998, winning by less than 2%.
He took over as governor when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and since then has won election to two full terms as the state’s chief executive. He is currently running for an unprecedented third term, already having occupied the governor’s office longer than any other Texas governor, Republican or Democrat.
Perry’s incumbency has not been without controversy. In 2007, he issued an executive order mandating that school-age girls be vaccinated with Gardasil, a vaccine to combat the human papillomavirus (HPV). He was roundly condemned by many who believed that it would encourage sexual intercourse. Others were upset that Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, had contributed to Perry’s campaign. Others disagreed and felt that HPV was a significant cause of cervical cancer and should be vaccinated against. Ultimately, the executive order was overturned by the legislature.
Perry has supported the formation of the Trans-Texas Corridor, a highway (I-69) running from Texarkana/Shreveport to Mexico (possibly the Rio Grande Valley via US 281, or Laredo via I-35). The corridor will be part toll road run by private (and foreign) companies in partnership with Texas. However, the feeling against the use of toll roads in Texas is fierce.
Perry has also had many successes while in office. He championed SCHIP and encouraged additional educational funding (although he has also said “no” to the federal government on money for schools), has kept taxes fairly low (though with some increases), and is generally considered to be business friendly despite changes to the franchise tax.
Perry’s victories in 2002 and 2006 were against Democrats who really had little chance against the popular governor. He is largely seen as a conservative and an early supporter of the tea party movement in Texas.