Perry exits Texas stage making a case for his past, and his future

Rick Halperin, director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program, said former Texas Gov. Rick Perry oversaw 279 executions, making him “the most lethal governor in American history.”

By Manny Fernandez

AUSTIN, Tex. — Gov. Rick Perry leaves office here next week not so much as a man but as the face of an era — a 14-year reign in which he became the state’s longest-serving chief executive and was widely regarded as the most powerful governor in the history of modern Texas.

He turned a happenstance, unelected rise to office — going from lieutenant governor to governor in December 2000 after George W. Bush resigned to become president — into a one-man Republican dynasty, winning three four-year terms, making every appointment on every board and commission in the state and redefining the power of the governor’s office.

In a farewell speech to the Texas Legislature on Thursday, Mr. Perry made a spirited case for his tenure, boasting that Texas has become more prosperous and financially sound — with better schools, safer streets, cleaner air and fewer frivolous lawsuits — since he became governor. . . 

For all his boasting of Texas as a small-government, free-enterprise state, critics say he has used his power to reward friends and campaign donors, mismanaging taxpayer-funded agencies and programs along the way. A report by the state auditor found that Mr. Perry’s economic development fund, known as the Texas Enterprise Fund and administered by his office, had awarded more than $200 million in taxpayer dollars to companies and universities without requiring them to submit applications or to create a set number of jobs.

Regardless of how many prisons closed, Mr. Perry oversaw 279 executions, a record that, according to Rick Halperin, the former president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, made him “the most lethal governor in American history.”

Read the full story.