AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is entering the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday. Key things to know about him:
The longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry was a Democrat who became a Republican and an early adopter of tea party conservatism. He donned his signature cowboy boots, "Freedom" and "Liberty," and strode into the 2012 presidential race late, bragging about his state's strong job-creation record and flexing fundraising muscle. He became a front-runner nearly overnight, then saw his campaign collapse almost as quickly thanks to gaffes that he blamed on hubris and lingering pain from back surgery. This time, he's studied with policy experts, traveled extensively and trumpeted his five years in the Air Force. Will voters give him a second chance? "It's easier to judge someone by how they get up from a failure," he told The Associated Press last year. He's 65.
Perry was elected to the Texas Legislature as a conservative Democrat in 1984, but GOP kingmaker Karl Rove helped persuade him to switch parties five years later and Perry won the agricultural commissionership. In 1998, he was elected lieutenant governor and replaced Gov. George W. Bush in December 2000 when Bush was on his way to the White House. Perry erased any suggestion he was an accidental governor the following summer, vetoing 78 bills in the "Father's Day Massacre." As governor, he said in 2009 that he could understand why frustration with Washington might prompt some Texans to support secession. Overseeing a healthy Texas economy fueled by an oil boom, Perry won three more terms and could have sought a fourth, but didn't and left office in January. He is facing felony indictments in Austin for coercion and abuse-of-power. He is accused of threatening — then carrying out — a 2013 veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors. This, after the Democratic head of the unit rebuffed the governor's calls to resign following her conviction and jailing for drunken driving. Perry calls the case a "political witch hunt," but his attempts to get it quashed on constitutional grounds have failed.
The son of tenant cotton farmers, Perry was born in a cabin without running water in Paint Creek, a West Texas town with no stoplights. He was part of a 13-student high school graduating class and met his wife, Anita Thigpen, at a piano recital when he was 8 and she 6. At Texas A&M, Perry was elected yell leader, a coveted male cheerleader position. He worked as a door-to-door Bible reference book salesman in the summers before flying Air Force C-130 cargo planes. He returned to the farm, but was recruited to run for the state Legislature at 33. Perry further solidified his cowboy cred in 2010, when he used a laser-sighted .380 Ruger to kill a coyote while jogging in a rural corner of Austin.
CALLING CARD MOMENT
Will he ever live down that "Oops?" On a Michigan debate stage in November 2011, Perry couldn't remember the third of three federal agencies he promised to close if he became president. After nearly a full minute of stammering, Perry finally muttered, "The third one, I can't. Oops." There was no sugarcoating that moment afterward: "I stepped in it."
EARLY STATE ACTION
No presidential hopeful has visited Iowa more over the last year than Perry, and he's hit New Hampshire and South Carolina hard, too. His interactions with small groups of voters in out-of-the-way places is a departure from his flashy 2012 campaign, when he finished fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire and dropped out two days before the South Carolina primary.
Perry has written two books. "Fed Up" is a 2010 tea party call-to-arms that's so packed with anti-government rhetoric that Perry had trouble answering for it during the 2012 campaign. Opponents seized on his writing that Social Security was a "Ponzi scheme," and Perry flip-flopped on the book's assertion that each state should set its own gay marriage policies. In 2008's "On My Honor," Perry described his days as an Eagle Scout and urged the Boy Scouts of America to maintain its now-abandoned policy of excluding openly gay youngsters. He also suggested that being gay was a choice.
ONLINE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
www.usaeconfreedom.org (nonprofit political organization)