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By W. Gardner Selby March 19, 2010

Karl Rove says he and consultant David Weeks persuaded Rick Perry to switch parties and run for state agriculture commissioner

Texas Gov. Rick Perry draws mention in GOP consultant Karl Rove’s autobiography with attention focused on Perry’s win for lieutenant governor in 1998 and Rove's role in his pivotal earlier switch from the Democratic to Republican party while he was a third-term member of the Texas House.

Rove writes: “Rick Perry had planned to retire from the legislature until his best friend, David Weeks, and I talked him into switching parties and running for the GOP nomination for agriculture commissioner.” His book, "Courage and Consequence, My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," was published March 9.

We wondered if Perry’s 1989 party shift and his 1990 challenge to Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower played out so simply.

Perry didn’t comment, but Weeks, a long-time Perry friend who’s been a consultant in Perry’s statewide campaigns, said Perry was seriously considering retirement, perhaps to become a lobbyist, partly because his wife, Anita, was saddled with raising their young children at the time.

Weeks said Rove was part of a group of Republicans who encouraged Perry to switch parties and make the statewide run. “He wasn’t the only one,” Weeks said.

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Published stories also single out Weeks and Rove.

Perry considered working as a lobbyist or high-level Capitol aide rather than leaving Austin entirely, according to a February article in the Austin American-Statesman. Instead, Weeks and others encouraged him to run for ag commissioner, the newspaper said. Perry told the Statesman: “I'll give David the bulk of the credit. He came and sat down with me and said, 'You ought to run for statewide office.'”

According to a 2003 Rove profile published in Texas Monthly magazine, Rove and Weeks “persuaded Perry, an obscure Democratic legislator from Haskell who had co-chaired Al Gore's 1988 Democratic presidential primary campaign in Texas, to switch parties for the election. West Texas was swinging Republican anyway, and Perry, who was discouraged by his failure to advance in the House leadership and thinking of becoming a lobbyist, had nothing to lose.”

The rest is dramatic Republican history: Perry, whose advisers included Rove, upset Hightower and has now held statewide office for nearly 20 years. Rove went on to help Bush to the White House.

Others were involved, though, in Perry making his initial leap. We rate Rove’s statement as Mostly True.

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Karl Rove says he and consultant David Weeks persuaded Rick Perry to switch parties and run for state agriculture commissioner

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