What Does Gov. Rick Perry’s Indictment Mean for 2016?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury on Friday for alleged abuse of power. The blow to the 2016 presidential hopeful concerned a threat to cut off funding to his state’s public integrity unit.

At a news conference on Saturday, Perry referred to the indictment as a “farce” and said, “We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country. … This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power.”

In April 2013, Perry called for the resignation of Travis County Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, after she was convicted of drunken driving. Perry said publicly that he would veto $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which she runs. When he did so, his words were seen by a grand jury as an acted-upon threat.

“I took into account the fact that we’re talking about a governor of a state — and a governor of the state of Texas, which we all love,” Michael McCrum, the prosecutor who led the case against Perry, said to ABC. “Obviously that carries a lot of importance. But when it gets down to it, the law is the law.”

Perry’s indictment for abuse of official capacity is a first-degree felony, and the other, coercion of a public servant, is a third-degree felony. The first has a possible punishment of five to ninety-nine years in prison, and the second could lead to two to ten years.

“This clearly represents political abuse of the court system and there is no legal basis in this decision,” David L. Botsford, Perry’s counsel, said in a statement. “The facts of this case conclude that the governor’s veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor.”

Some have called for Perry’s resignation since the indictment. Perry is the longest-serving governor of Texas, having been in office since 2000. He isn’t running for re-election in November, most likely intending to make a presidential bid for 2016. Perry previously competed for the Republican nomination in 2012.

But that run will almost certainly be affected by this indictment. It’s too early to tell if Perry will face a similar fate to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was in good favor when the George Washington Bridge scandal caused public opinion of him to dip dramatically.

But FiveThirtyEight reported that the success of Perry’s potential run was already a long shot before Friday’s news, citing recent polls by NBC/Marist that put Perry at 7 percent in Iowa and 5 percent in New Hampshire – lower than where he was at in 2012. FiveThirtyEight speculated that “Perry’s past missteps and misstatements may have rendered him unacceptable to Republican power brokers.”

Perhaps there was no ship for this indictment to sink, but it’s still early yet.

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