CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) – Rick Perry, the conservative governor of Texas, declared himself a candidate for president on Saturday, shaking up the race for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012.
Perry made the announcement in a statement issued shortly before he was to address a gathering of conservatives in South Carolina to launch his campaign.
“It is time to get America working again,” Perry said in the statement. “That’s why with the support of my family and an unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today my candidacy for president of the United States.”
The three-term Texas governor has touted a record of job growth in Texas and also is known as a strident critic of federal power and an opponent of abortion rights and gay marriage. He is considered a strong fundraiser.
Opinion polls indicate Perry enters the race close on the heels of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the early front-runner to win the 2012 Republican nomination.
The announcement by Perry, who has made his deep Christian faith a big part of his public image, came one week after he led a seven-hour religious rally in Houston to pray for America, a nation he described as “in crisis.”
In remarks posted before his speech on his campaign’s website, Perry said, “As Americans, we believe freedom is a gift from God, and government’s prime function is to defend it. We don’t see the role of government as a nanny state, and we recognize there is no government money that wasn’t once earned through the sweat and toil of private citizens.”
Perry sharply criticizes the Obama administration in the remarks.
“That’s why we object to an administration that sees its role as spending our children’s inheritance on failed economic theories that have given us record debt and left far too many unemployed, threatening not only our economy, but our security. Our reliance on foreign creditors and sources of energy not only compromises our national sovereignty, but jeopardizes our national future,” Perry said.