Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced today that he would not seek a fourth term as governor, ending months of speculation.
At a campaign style event in San Antonio tractor factory, Perry, 63, recited a litany of accomplishments in his 13 years in office before prefacing his decision with a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes: "For everything there is a season."
"I remain excited about the future and the challenges ahead, but the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership," Perry said.
Perry promised that he would spend the next 18 months "actively" leading Texas, as he "prays" and "reflects" on his future path.
"Until I leave this office I will continue working hard to do what's best for Texas," the former Republican presidential contender said.
The decision raises questions about what, if anything, the future would hold for the former presidential contender outside of Austin. With Texas' relatively strong economic record under his belt, and his aggressive pursuit of a socially conservative agenda, Perry appears poised to export a Texas-based vision for the national conservative agenda.
Perry did not, however, get specific about his future plans.
"I think he's more likely than not to look at president. That's a decision that doesn't have to be made with any finality until the midterms," said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican communications strategist. "If you read between the lines, this is not a guy who is going to ride off into the sunset."
In recent weeks, a fight over social issues has put Perry in the national spotlight once again. He called a second special legislative session in order to force lawmakers to reconsider anti-abortion legislation that was scuttled by Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis' more than 11-hour filibuster.
"We have better protected the right to life for Texas children. We have protected the sanctity of marriage. We have protected the traditional values that make Texas the greatest state on earth," Perry said. "We Texans are not afraid of a good fight. We're not afraid to fight for what we believe in."
Perry said he is determined to pass the bill and would call another special session if necessary to get it done.
Perry's departure from the field also opens up new political opportunity for ambitious Republicans in the state. Perry, who has served in the governor's mansion since 2000, is one of the longest serving governors in the country.
Most expect that Attorney General Greg Abbott will jump in the race as the frontrunner.
"There's been almost no movement in the high levels of Texas politics for the last decade or so," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, Austin. "There's a lot of pent-up ambition and pent-up demand to move up."