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RICK PERRY: The Great Campaigner :: Texas Monthly

August 14, 2011

Interviews by Nate Blakeslee, Paul Burka, Lucy Kellison, Jeff Salamon, Jake Silverstein and Mimi Swartz


Forget about death and taxes. Today, there are only two sure things in life: Every few years Rick Perry will run for office, and every few years Rick Perry will grind his opponents into dust. Since 1984, the man once derided as “Governor Good Hair” has participated in ten contested elections and won all of them. A few were against relatively weak opposition, but many were against prominent figures who were expected to give Perry a run for his money. Jim Hightower, John Sharp, Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bill White—you could competently govern a medium-sized republic with political talent like that. But all of them fell to Perry’s deep coffers, disciplined campaign style, occasional refusal to debate, and (semi-) popularity among Texans. What is it like to run against the man who may well be the most successful state politician in Texas history? To find out, we spoke to eleven people with intimate knowledge of what is, after dying and paying taxes, the most unpleasant experience a politician can endure. Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Barack Obama: Read closely.

Perry won his first race handily, and in District 64 in the mid-eighties, winning the Democratic primary was equivalent to winning the general election. Neighbours, a rancher and longtime history professor at Midwestern State University, in Wichita Falls, died in 2002. During his life, he kept regular journals, which are now held at the University of Texas at Arlington. Several of the entries from 1984 address his campaign against Perry.

May 1: Forum at Granbury. Wrote speeches for tonight. Went for haircut. Minor local candidates spoke first. Then leg. cand. Rick Perry had county remote official stand in for him. Said he was socked in by weather in Mi Wells. I read my paper last.

May 5: Primary election 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Went to Winn Dixie. Young man sacking groceries invited me inside where it’s cool . . . middle-aged woman asked whether I knew Rick Perry. I said, “Yes, he’s cute.” She turned red and accused me of breeding, training, and selling race horses for amateur betting. First malicious and false rumor I’ve heard. Shriner man laughed heartily at my calling Rick cute . . . Left Winn Dixie at 6:45. Ate at cafe next to Holiday Hills . . . drove my pickup home. Bill used portable radio and phone to get results. Rick Perry won.

via The Great Campaigner :: Texas Monthly.


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