Rick's reign rolls on
Perry breezes past White in governor's race: Is a run for the White House next?
Rick's reign rolls on.
Already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, Rick Perry won an unprecedented third consecutive term Tuesday, breezing past former Houston Mayor Bill White.
With 98 percent of the statewide vote counted, Perry led with 55 percent of the vote to 42 percent for White.
Exit polls by MSNBC showed that White won among voters between the ages of 18-49 (the market that television advertisers crave but who don't vote in overwhelming numbers). Perry won handily among voters 45 and older, garnering 59 percent of the vote of those age 65 and older.
Both Perry and White retained their core voters, Perry attracting 91 percent of Republicans and White getting 91 percent of Democrats' votes. But Perry scored stronger with white independent voters, garnering 59 percent to White's 36 percent.
"Well folks, Texas has spoken and we're on the right track," Perry told a cheering crowd at his campaign party in Buda, outside Austin. The speech was timed for the 10 o'clock news.
Much of Perry's speech seemed aimed at a national audience, leading to speculation he might have the White House in his sights with a run for president in 2012.
"Freedom still matters greatly in a very personal way to all of the people across this country. Our citizens are tired of big government raising their taxes and cooking up new ways to micromanage their lives," Perry said. "The people are fed up."
In a gracious concession speech soon after 9 p.m. at the Hilton-Americas hotel in downtown Houston, White encouraged his supporters to remain involved in politics.
"You have created a new coalition of Texans, young and old, from all backgrounds, remarkably bipartisan, who want our state to move forward, and I want to tell you, this will be an enduring legacy," he said. "I hope you keep this network alive because it is something powerful. It's time will come in our state."
As lieutenant governor in 2000, Perry assumed the state's highest office after then-Gov. George W. Bush was elected president of the United States. Perry won a full four-year term in 2002 and again in 2006, with only 39 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate race. Because of that poor showing, some pundits predicted that Perry was vulnerable should he seek another term. But he proved them wrong.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson challenged Perry in the Republican primary in March, but Perry won going away by labeling Hutchinson as a Washington politician.
Perry refused to debate White because White did not release his tax-returns from the mid-1990s when he was deputy U.S. energy secretary. Supporters of White ran television ads accusing Perry of being a coward for the refusal.
Perry cited job growth in Texas during a down economy and tried to tie White to President Obama and the national Democrats. White campaigned on his experience as Houston mayor and promised to bring high quality jobs to Texas.
The campaign was expensive, with non-stop television ads from both candidates. Toward the end of the campaign, a Perry campaign ad featured the widow of a Houston police officer killed by an undocumented immigrant when White was mayor of Houston. She said White supported sanctuary city policies "that made it difficult for officers to do their jobs." White replied with an ad that attacked Perry for failing to secure the border between Texas and Mexico.