This past July, Gov. Rick Perry presented an economic opportunity plan for minorities and the disadvantaged before the National Press Club as part of his campaign for the presidency. What transpired became known as “The Race Speech,” addressing racial disparity, economic struggle and a dirty history of racism.
No Republican in recent memory has spoken so forcefully about the relationship their party has had with the African-American community. Perry reminded us that abolition and integration rose from the Grand Ole Party, but we’d lost sight of our purpose. It was perhaps the most significant policy speech in a generation, since Lyndon B. Johnson articulated his war on poverty in the 1960s. Perry’s widely praised speech provided the counterpoint to that failed vision.
Unfortunately, no one predicted the effect Donald Trump would have on the tone of the race, and in a field of 17 primary candidates, a substantive policy speech like Perry’s was received with much less fanfare than it would have been in the past.
With The Race Speech, Rick Perry proved that he was uniquely suited to be the next president of the United States. We believe he still is — and still can win the Republican nomination.
With that in mind, the Bring Leadership Back PAC has begun raising money for a social media and online campaign to prepare the way for him if he chooses to return to the race. Our strategy is to remind voters of Perry’s accomplishments in key primary states, including Texas, and to convince caucus and primary voters that he has a unique set of skills and a record to show what he can accomplish as our next president.
A few weeks after his speech, Perry’s legal team met before a Texas judge seeking the dismissal of two frivolous indictments filed in 2014 by political opponents from Austin with an axe to grind. One of the charges was tossed on the constitutional grounds of free speech, but the other was allowed to proceed to trial for technical reasons.
The effect on Perry’s presidential fundraising was chilling. While the merits of the charges were almost universally assailed in political circles on left and right, Perry’s usually dependable network of fundraisers felt constrained by the pending charge. By Sept. 11, the governor suspended his campaign in the face of dwindling funds.
But on Nov. 18, Perry’s legal team argued for the dismissal of the final remaining charge before the Texas Court of Appeals’ nine-member bench — in a hearing where some judges appeared astounded that a serious prosecutor could file such scurrilous charges. Lawyers expect the indictment to be tossed at any time.
That means now is the time to bring leadership back to the Republican primary.
The governor has not given any indication of his intentions and has not had any contact with our people, but we believe we have the opportunity to make his decision easier. Trusted donors are expressing their support for his return — a fundraising push that began in late November has yielded even better results than expected as supporters make it plain that they value experience over rhetoric and true leadership over obstinacy.
Clearly, other candidates have momentum and Perry would be restarting the engine halfway through, but this is a marathon through Iowa and the other states, not a sprint. We believe that the governor has an opportunity to capture enough of the 2,472 GOP delegates in a crowded field to lift the maturity of the conversation and convince voters that he’s the best choice for the Republican convention in July 2016. It is our sincere hope and vision to battle for the 1,236 needed delegates to win the nomination and return leadership to the White House.
Our strategy is being developed to factor a changing landscape and a never-before approach to the primary season.
The next president needs to be someone with principles but with the experience of bringing people together; someone tested, so voters know where they stand when their back is against the wall; an effective communicator to make them excited again about being an American. The next president needs to be a leader, not a divider or an ideologue. We believe the race should pick up where it left off in September and embrace the re-entry of Gov. Perry. Please visit our website for more information about the PAC and it’s purpose.
This piece originally appeared in TribTalk, a publication of The Texas Tribune.