Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has diverted his attention from his state to run for president, even as Texas suffers a debilitating drought, historic wildfires, and slumping economy. “Perry—alone among the Republican candidates—has a moral obligation to govern,” Richard Parker wrote in the New Republic in October. “And whether America loves or hates Rick Perry the presidential candidate, the fact is we Texans need our governor back home. Now.”
But today, despite his disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses last night and diminishing prospects of capturing the GOP nomination, Perry announced that he would continue his campaign.
So who has been running the nation’s second largest state in Perry’s absence?
For the past two weeks, it’s been “a little-known politician from the Houston area,” the Dallas Morning News reports. The lieutenant governor, who typically fills in, left the state on December 26 for a five-day vacation, then went to Iowa this week to campaign for Perry. That left state Sen. Mike Jackson (R), who holds the state Senate’s generally honorary position of president pro tem, in charge.
So what’s Jackson been up to as acting governor? “It’s really everyday life,” he told the Morning News. “Big, important state business today? No, I’m at work at my construction company,” Jackson added:
Jackson said he’d spoken to staff members in Austin but otherwise tended to Senate district business, such as chasing down a constituent’s question about whether utility terrain vehicles — oversize golf carts — can be driven on the beach in Galveston.
“That’s about it,” he said.
Under the state constitution, the governor cedes control of Texas when he leaves its borders, though lawmakers have tried several times to enact an amendment that would allow the executive to use modern telecommunications to remain in charge. Perry “stays apprised” of what’s going on in Texas, aides said.
The state pays acting governors $410.96 per day for filling in, so to date, Perry’s absence due to his presidential bid has cost Texas taxpayers at least $25,000 in pay for his substitutes. Meanwhile, Perry’s security detail — which he takes with him on the campaign trail — costs taxpayers as much as $400,000 a month, up from before he announced his bid.