Upon graduation in 1972, Perry was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force and flew C-130 tactical aircraft in the United States, Middle East and Europe. He was discharged with the rank of captain and returned to west Texas to help on his family ranch in 1977.
After years as a cotton farmer, Perry jumped into politics in 1985 when he entered the state House of Representatives as a conservative Democrat. Perry supported Al Gore's presidential bid in 1988 and even spearheaded his election efforts in the state of Texas.
In 1989, Perry switched parties and became a Republican. The following year he ran and won in the election for Agriculture Commissioner, a role in which he promoted the sale of Texas farm produce to other states and foreign nations.
After serving two terms as Agriculture Commissioner, Perry ran for lieutenant governor and became the state's first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction.
Upon Bush's election to the presidency, Perry assumed the Texas governorship in 2000. He has since won three re-elections as governor, even defeating popular Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary election in 2010. Perry also serves as the president of the Republican Governor's Association.
Perry would enter the presidential race undefeated, having never lost an election in his three decades of working in government.