SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry, a brash conservative best known for his stumbling attempt to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, said on Monday he will not seek another term as governor but did not say if he would run again for the White House.
Perry, 63, took office in December 2000 after George W. Bush was declared president by the U.S. Supreme Court. He was elected to a full term in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
“The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” Perry said at a press conference in San Antonio on Monday.
“I make this announcement with a deep sense of humility and appreciation for the time and the trust the people of this state have given me.”
Perry is the longest continuously serving governor in the United States. Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa has served longer but not continuously.
In an announcement to hundreds of cheering, sign-waving Republicans, Perry touted his emphasis on low taxes, limited regulation and promoting business for the strength of the Texas economy during his 14 years in office.
He has drawn the ire of Democratic lawmakers for staging high profile trips to raid business from other large states including California, Illinois and New York.
Surrounded by construction equipment in the country’s largest Caterpillar dealership, Perry said: “Thirty percent of the net new jobs created in America in the last decade were created right here in Texas.”
Perry did not mention a possible second run for the White House in 2016, but many of his supporters left thinking that another bid is inevitable.
“He wanted to make sure he left the door open to make some announcement later,” said Kevin Wolff, a prominent San Antonio Republican in the crowd.
Perry has said that one of the reasons his 2012 run flopped -- culminating in an embarrassing brain freeze during a Michigan debate when he was unable to remember the three government departments he hoped to eliminate -- was that he had not properly prepared.
Cal Jillson, a political analyst at Southern Methodist University, said if Perry wants to position himself for a future Presidential race, he made the right move on Monday.
“This gives him time to put together a national team, and to prepare in areas that he doesn’t know much about, so he is a more competent candidate for President,” Jillson said.
Perry’s announcement set off a scramble for top offices in the nation’s second largest state, which Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri said will build excitement among Republicans statewide.
“It’s the domino effect that this creates,” he said. “Other people will move up to run for governor who then vacate those offices.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who led several of the state’s fights in court against President Barack Obama’s initiatives, is seen as the most likely candidate for governor.
Some of Perry’s fiercest political opponents celebrated his decision to step down.
“Rick Perry has done more to hurt women than any governor in history,” said the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a political arm of the women’s health group which fought Perry on access to contraception and abortion in Texas.
A group advocating the expansion of health care to the uninsured in Texas said the departure of Perry raises hopes that Texas may eventually ease its opposition to Obama’s health reform law.
“Governor Perry has been the chief roadblock to helping millions of Texans get access to quality affordable health insurance,” said LaToya White, a Houston area member of the Texas Organizing Project.
Political analysts do not expect Perry’s decision to threaten two decades of Republican Party dominance in Texas. No Democrat has been elected to statewide executive office in the state since 1994. Jillson said that Republican dominance will not change for ten to fifteen years.
“A lot of people point to the mid 2020 as the time when demographics, especially the rising Hispanic population, will shift Texas to two party competition,” he said. “I don’t see it happening before then.”
Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Brendan O'Brien, Greg McCune and Andrew Hay