Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, once an imposing figure in state politics, is watching his stature wane as he works to cash in on his remaining political currency. The former presidential candidate has recently endorsed causes and candidates often at odds with the conservative base.

In 2023 and 2024, the gambling lobby and Texans for Lawsuit Reform have called on Perry to advance their agendas—before that, he was hocking COVID air conditioning units, pushing toll roads run by foreign entities, and prioritizing STD shots that nobody needed or wanted for their teen daughters.

Whereas the former yell leader’s iconic drawl and wide grin evoked short-lived resentment from conservatives, increasingly transparent self-serving maneuvers are drawing sustainable ire.

Last year, ahead of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial, Perry lent his name to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, lobbying Senators not to dismiss the case. This PR gambit was hatched by Texans for Lawsuit Reform and seen through by political operative Karl Rove.

Paxton ultimately overcame the evidence-less impeachment, worked to unseat three Court of Criminal Appeals jurists, and had a political prosecution on security charges dropped abruptly. His stock is high, especially compared to Perry, whose 2024 primary endorsements were mixed results.

Jill Dutton (R-Van Zandt) received Perry’s endorsement for an open seat election in House District 2. Dutton narrowly won a special election run-off in January but lost the GOP primary in March. Dutton received over three-quarters of a million dollars from TLR for her efforts.

Perry also endorsed John Harvey Slocum, son of the famous former A&M football coach, who came in a disappointing third place in a race to replace retiring State Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station).

Kacal, like many other retiring representatives, chose not to seek reelection after voting to kill a school choice measure in the final special session of 2023. He served six terms (12 years) in the Texas House; for reference, a lawmaker who serves 12 years can start collecting benefits at 50. Kyle is 55.

The Dutton and Kacal endorsements were the only races where Perry risked his endorsement against that of Gov. Greg Abbott, and he lost both.

At least one missing Perry endorsement this cycle was telling. 

In 2022, Perry endorsed State Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford), whom Abbott ditched in favor of challenger Mike Olcott in 2024. Perry opted to sit this race out entirely. When endorsing Rogers in the past, Perry frequently noted the sentimentality since the seat was the first Perry was elected to as a Democrat in 1985.

He also endorsed State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen), a proponent of gambling expansion and a regular carrier of TLR’s legislative agenda.

Perry’s most high-profile endorsement this cycle is backing the embattled Speaker of the Texas House, Dade Phelan. This puts Perry at odds with his former boss, President Donald Trump, who backed Phelan’s opponent. This endorsement, which looks like a play to advance his gambling contract, highlights the growing divide between Perry and the conservative base.

Phelan is headed to a run-off against local activist David Covey. Regardless of the outcome, his speakership is already in jeopardy, not unlike the power of Perry endorsements.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.