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Perry defeats White for third term as governor

Nov. 3, 2010

Associated Press
Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes an appearance at an event in Austin. Perry defeated Bill White, earning a third four-year term as governor.

By Kelley Shannon
Associated Press

AUSTIN -- Republican Gov. Rick Perry carried his anti-Washington message to victory over Democrat Bill White on Tuesday, winning an unprecedented third full four-year term by appealing to voters angry with the White House and worried about the economy.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Perry had 55 percent of the vote compared with White's 42 percent on a day when Republicans fared well across the nation and in conservative Texas.

"Texas has spoken and we're on the right track," a grinning Perry said during his victory speech at an exotic game ranch that surrounds a working landfill south of Austin.

Perry hammered hard all year on the theme that the Texas economy is better than many states and that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created during his decade in office. He repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama and national Democrats and tried to link White to them -- and he quickly turned to that theme in his speech.

"In precinct after precinct, the wave of dissatisfaction has been building nearly two years, and it crested tonight," he said.

Perry, who became governor when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, tapped into anti-government fervor and appealed to the tea party movement, even though all his positions didn't sit well with those Republican voters. Perry ran strongly among voters angry with the federal government and those concerned about the direction of the economy.

Preliminary results from an exit poll of more than 2,600 voters seemed to validate the Republican governor's campaign strategy, which included television ads boasting that he had "confronted" Obama.

White fared well among self-described moderates and those who approve of Obama's performance, the polling showed. He won among Latino voters and among voters making under $50,000 per year.

But Perry was leading in most regions of the state, with the results about even in heavily Hispanic and Democratic South Texas. While Perry carried the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, as expected, he ran even with White in the Houston area, where White served as mayor for six years.

Voter Andrew Piel said he trusted Perry's fiscal conservatism and believed the governor will not raise taxes. That trust, he said, did not extend to White.

"Bill White is from a political party that I don't trust on the tax issue, and that was really it for me," the a 38-year-old attorney from Arlington said Tuesday.

Walter Fitch, a 78-year-old retiree in San Antonio, said he voted a straight Republican ticket, as he has for years. "I think they would start the country down a different road, and that's what we need," he said.

The race between Perry and White, the Democrats' best hope in years to win the Texas' top office, was long and expensive. Both candidates spent millions of dollars airing television ads and trekking around Texas, visiting rural towns and crowded urban neighborhoods.

White, a former Houston mayor and deputy U.S. energy secretary, worked to keep his distance from Obama and steered away from the president's appearances during Obama's trip to Texas in August. In contrast, Perry greeted Obama upon his arrival at the Austin airport -- he said he wanted to talk to Obama about border security -- and then used a picture of the event in a TV ad to say he'd confronted the Democratic president.

Perry is viewed by some as potential presidential or vice presidential candidate in 2012, but on Tuesday, he told The Associated Press that his new book that goes on sale later this month is proof that he won't run for federal office. In "Fed Up: Our Fight to Save American from Washington," Perry calls Social Security a failure and a Ponzi scheme and parts of the Voting Rights Act should no longer be enforced.

"I think probably the best display, the best concrete evidence that I'm really not running for president is this book, because when you read this book, you're going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it's kind of been the third rail if you will," Perry told the AP.

In his concession speech, White encouraged his supporters to continue being active in their communities and work toward common goals.

"You have created a new coalition of Texans ... who want our state to move forward and let me tell you this will be an enduring legacy," White said.