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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined an increasingly large field of Republican hopefuls for the White House when he announced his 2016 candidacy for president through a video Thursday. He was expected to give a speech later in the day in Dallas.
But he’s got a few hurdles to overcome, besides the competition for votes from Republican primary voters next year.
Memories of an embarassing exit from the 2012 contest and legal difficulties from his time as Texas governor are complicating his entry into the 2016 race.
He’s got several things going for him, though. He’s credited for boosting the Texas economy when he was governor, from 2000-2015, by, among other things, opposing a state income tax and limiting government regulation of business. Some commentators write this off by pointing out that the price of oil was high at the time, helping Texas’ economy, which now has more challenges at a time when oil is selling at around $60 a barrel.
Perry, 65, began his political life as a Democrat, serving in the Texas House of Representatives from 1984 to 1990. He became a Republican in 1990. He has held both liberal and conservative views along the way. As a legislator, he supported a massive tax increase. As governor, he issued an executive order mandating HPV vaccines for all 6th-grade public school girls. (The state legislature later reversed the order when it was revealed that Perry’s former chief of staff and longtime supporter Mike Toomey had become a lobbyist for Merck, the manufacturer of the HPV vaccination Gardasil).
But in 2011, Texas Right to Life executive director Elizabeth Graham tells LifeNews.com that Perry has "always championed the pro-life cause, tirelessly advocating for the sanctity of innocent human life in numerous ways." He has said that he opposes abortion in all cases, except when a mother’s life is in danger.
In 2005, he supported Texas Proposition 2 to write a ban on same-sex "marriage" into the state’s constitution. The initiative passed overwhelmingly. When the New York State legislature legalized the practice in 2011, Perry said the move was consistent with states rights, though he has also supported a federal amendment protecting natural marriage from redefinition.
In that same year, blasted President Barack Obama’s decision to require U.S. agencies operating abroad to promote equal rights for gays as part of the administration’s "war on traditional American values."
As the executive of a border state, the Texas native has been a well-positioned critic of Obama’s immigration policies. Though he earlier signed a law granting college tuition to children of undocumented immigrants, Perry last year deployed National Guard troops to the border to stem the tide of drug smugglers and unaccompanied children from Central American countries.
Since he decided not to run for another term as governor, Perry has reportedly taken advantage of his free time to bone up on foreign policy, economics and other issues. Apparently trying to make up for his embarassing "oops" moment in a debate in the 2012 cycle (where he forgot the name of the third federal agency he vowed to eliminate), he has reportedly been receiving tutorials from outside advisers.
But 2012 is not the only blast from the past that will be haunting his new race. He remains under indictment in Texas, accused of abusing his power as governor to undermine the state’s political ethics agency. He maintains that the charges are politically motivated.