The governor, seeking re-election for the third time, drew shouts of appreciation from the crowd of about 200 people when he thanked Tea Party members for inspiring people to read the Constitution.
"I've got to think there are more people who have read the Constitution in the last 18 months than in the last 50 years," Perry said.
His 20-minute speech to the Texas Conservative Coalition, a group that favors limited government, was billed by his campaign as a rally for the 10th Amendment. The loudest applause came when he read aloud the complete text of the amendment, which says powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people.
Though his speech was filled with remarks about an "overreaching federal government," Perry -- as he has throughout the campaign -- stayed away from references to secession, a topic he famously flirted with at a Tea Party rally in 2009.
"Over the past several years, I've watched the federal government, it's just expanded like a fat tick," Perry said. "It's become engorged with our tax dollars."
Perry referenced a lawsuit to stop President Barack Obama's health care plan joined by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as an effort by his administration to address "a simple question."
"Do states have rights, or do they not?" Perry said. "For too long, Washington has acted like we don't ... and the American people are finally, entirely, wholeheartedly fed up."
His Democratic rival, ex-Houston Mayor Bill White, was campaigning in South Texas.
"Perry's nearly doubled state spending and doubled state debt. That's why we need a governor who's been a businessman, who won't be auditioning on the national stage but instead working for Texans," White's spokeswoman Katy Bacon said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Hispanic lawmakers, meanwhile, blasted Perry during a conference call with reporters Thursday. They said his recent TV ad attacking White hit a new low and accused Perry of trying to stir up passions against immigrants for political gain.
The ad, featuring the wife of a police officer who was killed by an immigrant who previously had been deported, says White didn't do enough to crack down on illegal immigration while he was mayor of Houston.
Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said Perry was "trying to have it both ways on immigration" by criticizing Arizona's restrictive law but then calling for policies that would accomplish the same thing.
"This is a way to address immigration but in a very mean-spirited and divisive way," Alvarado said.
Perry, however, kept his remarks on the topic of states rights and limited government.
"We like our government small," the governor said. "Somehow, somewhere, folks in Washington decided the government should be all things to all people and the final arbiter on just about every issue you can think of."
Associated Press reporters Jay Root in Austin and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this story.