ADDISON, Texas (CN) – Rick Perry is seeking the Republican nomination for president, he announced today, saying he’s “been tested” and “led the most successful state in America.”
The former Texas governor is something of a long shot. His 2012 presidential bid fizzled after a series of missteps, and he faces state felony charges of abuse of office and coercion.
Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor, with 14 years in office, made his announcement in an airport hangar in Addison, north of Dallas, becoming the tenth declared candidate seeking the Republican nomination.
“The reason I’m running for president is I know for certain our country’s best days lie ahead,” Perry said. “There is nothing wrong in America today that a change of leadership will not make happen.”
Flanked by former Navy SEALs and military veterans, a cheering crowd below and a Perry for President plane in the background, Perry, an Air Force veteran, touted his record of job creation, border security and education.
He appealed to his base of conservative supporters in his uphill battle to break through to the top tier of GOP candidates.
“We are a resilient country” Perry said. “You think about who we are. We’ve been through a Civil War, we’ve been through two World Wars, we’ve been through a Great Depression, we even made it through Jimmy Carter. … We will make it through the Obama years,” he said to cheers.
Perry entered politics as a Democrat before switching parties and winning statewide office in 1991 as a Republican.
“I’ve been tested,” Perry said. “I’ve led the most successful state in America.”
A onetime farmer, Perry graduated from Texas A&M University, where he was an Aggie yell leader, before becoming a state legislator in 1985.
He served as Texas Agriculture Commissioner and stepped up from lieutenant governor when former Gov. George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000.
Since his less-than-stellar run in 2012, Perry’s campaign says he has become a more polished candidate, studying foreign policy and economic issues for two years.
He also added a trendy pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses.
But he remains plagued by criminal charges in Texas and the threat of a possible trial hanging over his cowboy hat.
A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
The Aug. 15, 2014 indictment came after Perry followed through on threats to pull funding from Travis County District Attorney Mary Lehmberg’s ethics investigation unit if she did not resign after a drunken-driving arrest.
When Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused, Perry issued a line-item veto that stripped her office’s Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million earmarked for it by the Legislature during the 2013 session.
Perry insists that he had the power to veto the spending, and claims that the charges violate his free speech. He hired a team of high-profile attorneys and has fought the indictment with mountains of legal documents.
The case has wound its way for 10 months from Travis County Court to the state’s all-Republican Third Court of Appeals, where Perry is appealing Visiting Judge Bert Richardson’s January refusal to quash the indictment.
It was the second time Richardson, a Republican on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, refused to dismiss the charges. In November 2014 he rejected Perry’s motion to dismiss that claimed the special prosecutor had not been properly sworn in.
Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum filed a brief in May urging the court to move the case to trial, saying the parties “have exchanged hundreds of pages of briefs” but are still “no closer to a resolution.”
“A trial could resolve what legal briefs to this court cannot,” McCrum wrote on May 11.
Perry attended one pre-trial hearing in November but the judge excused him from an earlier hearing because of his travels abroad.
Perry travels to Iowa Saturday for a “Ride with Rick” event featuring many of Thursday’s guests, including retired U.S. Navy SEALs and Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, whose autobiography “American Sniper” was made into a movie by Clint Eastwood.
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