Everything you need to know about Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Perry is the new secretary of energy.

ByABC News
March 3, 2017, 12:45 PM

— -- Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was confirmed Thursday as secretary of the Department of Energy -- an agency he had once sought to eliminate.

When running for president in 2012, Perry promised to shut down three federal departments, including Energy. After President Trump tapped him for the position of energy secretary, Perry told the Senate committee deciding on his nomination in January that he regretted his proposal to dissolve the department.

Here's everything you need to know about the new energy secretary:

Name: James Richard "Rick" Perry

Age: 66 (born March 4, 1950)

Education: Texas A&M University

What he used to do : Perry was on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, which has as a subsidiary Dakota Access, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline. Perry also was on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners.

Perry announced his second run for president on June 4, 2015, and was the first to drop out of that race, three months later. He was recently a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars," dancing to raise money for veterans, and was eliminated from the competition in the third week.

Perry succeeded then-President-elect George W. Bush in 2000 as governor of Texas and held that office 14 years, the longest in the state's history. He had held other state offices since 1990, as the commissioner of agriculture for two four-year terms and as the lieutenant governor for two years. He spent six years in the Texas House of Representatives.

What he did before entering politics: Perry served in the U.S. Air Force from 1972 to 1977, when he flew C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in the United States and abroad. He never saw combat, piloting planes in Europe and the Middle East. He was one of just a few veterans among the 2016 presidential contenders — a fact he played up when he announced his candidacy. He was an Eagle Scout, and he studied animal science at Texas A&M.

Family: He and his wife, Anita Perry, were married in 1982 and have two grown children — a daughter, Sydney Perry, and a son, Griffin Perry — and two granddaughters.

The "Oops" moment:

After a late entry and some early momentum in the 2012 presidential race, Perry "stepped in it," as he put it, at a key debate. He struggled to recall what had become a central tenet of his stump speech. He said that if elected, he would eliminate three federal agencies but, after naming the Commerce and Education departments, failed to remember the third. Lots of “ums” ensued, and the audience laughed. "The third agency of government I would do away with — the Education, uh, the uh, I — Commerce, and, let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops." That gut-wrenching mistake did more than anything else to destroy his candidacy. The agency Perry forgot was, ironically, the Energy Department.

About his Senate confirmation hearing

During his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January, Perry said he regrets calling for the Energy Department's elimination.

"My past statements, made over five years ago, about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking," Perry said. "In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also questioned Perry on the question of testing nuclear weapons, asking the former governor whether he supported a ban on it.

"I think anyone would be of the opinion that if we don’t ever have to test another nuclear weapon, that would be a good thing; not just for the United States but for the world," Perry said.

His relationship with Trump:

During the 2012 election season, Trump praised Perry as "a very impressive guy with a very good record" in an interview with ABC News in 2011. Courting the real estate mogul's endorsement, Perry met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York, and the two dined at a high-priced restaurant on Sept. 14, 2011.

When they were both candidates for president in 2015, Perry was among the first to criticize Trump. "Let no one be mistaken. Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded," Perry said in a speech in Washington, D.C. He also said Trump "offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism — a toxic mix demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued."

Trump hit back at a campaign rally in South Carolina in July 2015, saying of Perry, "He put on glasses so people will think he's smart ... It just doesn't work. People can see through the glasses ... I say he did a lousy job on the border." He called Perry "vicious," adding, "He used to be a nice guy. He used to see me for contributions and support. All of a sudden, he wants to show he's a tough guy with Trump," Trump said.

In response to Trump's attacks, Perry challenged Trump to a pull-up contest, saying, "Let's get a pull-up bar out there and see who can do the most pull-ups."

After Perry ended his bid for president, Trump tweeted, "@GovernorPerry is a terrific guy and I wish him well - I know he will have a great future!"

Perry initially endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination, in January 2016. But once Trump was close to securing the Republican nomination, Perry announced he was supporting Trump. Perry began campaigning for Trump and congratulated him when he became president-elect.

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