Today in Texas History – January 19

From the Annals of the Halls of Power –  In 1999, Rick Perry took office as Texas’ first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction.  Perry’s long career in public office began in 1984 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat from District 64, which included Haskell County where his father had served as a County Commissioner.   Perry was well regarded as a Representative and served three terms.  He supported Al Gore for President in 1988.  But when George H.W. Bush won the Presidency, Perry was clearly attune to the direction the political winds were blowing in Texas, and he changed his party affiliation to the GOP.  In 1990, he narrowly defeated the popular incumbent Jim Hightower for Agriculture Commissioner.  With the help of Karl Rove he raised over $3 million and tarnished Hightower’s name – aided by a corruption scandal that enveloped 3 of Hightower’s aides.  Perry’s narrow win by about 20,000 votes pushed him into statewide prominence.   After serving two terms, Perry chose to run for Lieutenant Governor to succeed the retiring Democrat Bob Bullock.  Perry had a notable falling out with his previous top political strategist Karl Rove leading to the much-reported rivalry between the  Bush and Perry camps.  In the 1998 election, Perry eked out another narrow win with 1,858,837 votes (50.04 percent) to the 1,790,106 (48.19 percent) cast for Democrat John Sharp.

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