HOUSTON/DALLAS (Reuters) - Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas defeated Democratic challenger Bill White on Tuesday, setting the stage for a showdown with the Obama administration over federal carbon dioxide limits.
Perry, a conservative and Tea Party darling and the state’s longest-serving governor, won an unprecedented third term in Texas, the second most populous U.S. state behind California.
Perry handily defeated White, the popular former Houston mayor who was seen as his party’s best bet in 15 years to gain a foothold in the Republican stronghold.
Perry mined a the rich vein of conservative discontent with President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress to secure his re-election, after defeating Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in a run-off in March. Perry’s campaign rarely mentioned White, instead heaping criticism on Obama.
“Our citizens are tired of big government raising their taxes and cooking up new ways of micromanaging their lives,” Perry said at an exotic game ranch in central Texas. “In short the people are fed up.”
The comment was a nod to Perry’s upcoming book “Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” which he will promote on a nationwide tour to burnish his conservative credentials.
In a state known for the big oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. which call it home, both Perry and White have advocated for clean energy sources.
Perry’s re-election spells more conflict with the Obama administration over the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to place limits on industry emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Texas has sued to suspend the rules, which Perry has criticized as a threat to the state’s energy-dependent economy and a federal power grab.
“Part of Perry’s way of being governor is to stay in a low intensity conflict with the federal government and this will continue,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
On Perry’s watch Texas has become the biggest U.S. windpower producer, but he is “probably more skeptical (than White) about the role about renewables” like wind and solar, said Bill Arnold, professor at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in Houston.
Perry caused a nationwide stir last year when he openly pondered secession from the United States in the face of Obama’s agenda, including healthcare reform.
“Rick Perry will now be the dean of the Republican governors and his campaign was very much a referendum on Obama,” said Mark Jones, a political science expert at Rice University.
Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas; editing by Christopher Wilson