NBC News says Republican Gov. Rick Perry has defeated Democratic challenger Bill White and secured his third full term as Texas governor. With the win, Perry will add to his tenure as the longest to ever serve as governor of the Lone Star State.
At the time of this writing, with 85 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, Perry has 55 percent of the vote compared with White's 42 percent. (See race results here.)
"You know tonight, despite the hardwork of so many tens of thousands of Texas it does not look like we will elect a new governor. Andrea and I want to congratulate Rick and Anita Perry. He has been reelected as our governor, it does appear from early results. It looks as though the early vote margin may be too difficult to overcome," said White.
White went on to thank friends, family memebers and supporters for all their hard work on his campaign while calling for an end to discord between parties for the benefit of Texans and Americans.
"We ask you to join Andrea and extending best wishes to our governor elect, relect, Rick Perry. Now to those who've supported me, please recognize that every governor of our state deserves respect. And to those who've supported Rick Perry in this campaign, please understand that all of our elected leaders, including our national leadership, deserves respect," White said. "And Texans and Americans should understand that respect for diversity does not simply mean respect for people of diverse ethnic backgrounds but it also means respect for those with a different point of view. Let that be a lesson in this election."
White conceded the race at 9 p.m. and thanked his supporters. Later he released a statement to his supporters -- which you can read here.
Perry spoke to an excited crowd about an hour later, praising supporters for keeping Texas headed in the right direction and for supporting conservatives across the United States.
"Well, folks, Texas has spoken and we're on the right track. By exercising one of the most precious rights, the citizens of our state have sent a very clear message with their votes. That they are optimistic about the future of our country and they believe that Texas is headed in the right direction," Perry said. "All across the country in precinct after precinct, the wave of dissatsifaction has been building for nearly two years and it crested tonight in the form of conservatives winning offices and champions of big government are cleaning out their desk right now."
At the time of this writing, White won in Dallas County, where he beat Perry by 13 percentage points with 55 percent of the vote with 672 of 737 precincts reporting. In Collin County, Perry beat White by 32 percent with 64 percent of the vote. Election numbers from Tarrant County is not yet available.
Throughout the election, Perry hammered hard all year on the theme that the Texas economy is better than many states and that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created during his decade in office. He repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama and national Democrats and tried to link White to them.
The race between Perry and White, the Democrats' best hope in years to win the Texas' top office, was long and expensive. Both candidates spent millions of dollars airing television ads and trekking around Texas, visiting rural towns and crowded urban neighborhoods. They hammered each other over alleged wrongdoing in office, the state budget shortfall and what's going on in Washington, D.C.
Perry, who became governor when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, tapped into anti-government fervor and seized opportunities to link White with President Barack Obama and national Democrats.
White, a former Houston mayor and deputy U.S. energy secretary, worked to keep his distance from Obama and steered clear of the president's appearances during Obama's trip to Texas in August. In contrast, Perry greeted Obama upon his arrival at the Austin airport -- he said he wanted to talk to Obama about border security -- and then used a picture of the event in a TV ad to say he'd confronted the Democratic president.
Having never lost a race in his 25 years in state office, Perry relied on a practiced and polished approach to campaigning. He stuck to a couple of main themes, criticizing Washington and boasting that Texas has fared better than much of the nation economically by creating jobs during his tenure.
Voter Andrew Piel said he trusted Perry's fiscal conservatism and believed the governor will not raise taxes. That trust, he said, did not extend to White.
"Bill White is from a political party that I don't trust on the tax issue, and that was really it for me," the a 38-year-old attorney from Arlington said Tuesday.
Bonnie Salazar also said she was unhappy with Democrats. The 53-year-old school district employee in San Antonio said she normally votes Democratic by supported Perry and other Republicans on Tuesday.
GOP officials, Salazar said, "seem to be listening to us. The Democrats are not listening and I'm a Democrat saying that."
White took a different style than Perry while campaigning. Slow-talking and deliberate with his words, White told audiences that while Perry was better at television sound bites, he was better at getting results. He pointed to his record of responding to hurricanes and to property tax cuts when he was leader of Houston for six years.
Voters cast their ballots Tuesday and during two weeks of early voting without ever seeing the two side by side in a televised debate. Perry refused to debate because he said White hadn't released all his tax returns from his years in public service.
Perry also refused to speak to newspaper editorial boards. White ended up pulling in major newspaper endorsements.
White accused Perry of staying in office too long and using state job creation funds to reward his campaign contributors. Perry attacked White over his investment with a company that helped the city in its emergency response during Hurricane Rita.
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