Sharp-Perry have been around block
For the first two, they were buddies.
In the third, their political paths collided, and they became enemies.
Halfway through the fourth, they made up .
They met at Texas A&M University in 1968, both from small towns: Perry, Paint Creek, north of Abilene; Sharp, Placedo, southeast of Victoria.
They were among 58 freshmen in Squadron Six of the Aggie Corps of Cadets. They marched to meals together, ate together, lived in the same dorm – and were among the 13 who survived the hazing and were still there as seniors.
Sharp was elected sophomore class president, and student body president their senior year. Perry was elected yell leader as a junior and senior.
They later joked that each had stories that would ruin the other’s career.
Perry wanted to be a veterinarian, a prevet major for two years, “until the dean suggested I try something else. He didn’t think my 2.5 GPA was good enough. So I got my degree in animal science, and went into the Air Force.”
Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, close to his home turf, he was flying C-130 transport planes all over the country and world.
Perry had planned to make the Air Force a career. But after 4 ½ years, tired of being gone, he returned to ranch and farm with his dad in Haskell County.
Sharp joined the Army Reserves, was a Legislative Budget Board examiner, got a master’s degree in public administration from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now Texas State University).
In 1978, Democrat Sharp won a Texas House seat from Victoria, his home county. In 1982, he won a Texas Senate seat, and in 1986, a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission.
Perry won a House seat in 1984 as a Democrat, flying the eight-county district in his 1952 Super Cub.
In 1989, Perry helped lead a battle to limit progressive Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower’s ability to regulate pesticides. That August, he mused that the conservative rural Democrats’ days were probably numbered.
“I don’t think there will be any doubt that I’ll have a Democratic primary opponent and I think I’ll have a Republican opponent,” Perry said. “I’ve never had a Republican opponent, but I think I’ll get one this time.”
Perry also said he wouldn’t run for higher office.
Six weeks later, Perry didn’t get a vacant chairmanship of the powerful Calendars Committee he’d wanted. Ten days after that, he announced he was switching to the Republicans.
In December, days after legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan turned down the Texas Farm Bureau’s request he oppose Hightower, Perry said he would.
Sharp was also running in 1990 to replace state Comptroller Bob Bullock, who was running for lieutenant governor.
With Karl Rove as his political consultant, Perry ran TV ads showing him riding a horse, and Hightower holding African American Jesse Jackson’s hand aloft, endorsing him for president in 1988.
Hightower hadn’t raised enough money to compete on TV. Perry’s 1.2 percent victory margin came in urban TV markets.
Perry and Sharp were re-elected in 1994. But competitive juices were bubbling. When Sharp held a press conference in 1995 to back a constitutional amendment to promote processing Texas agricultural products in Texas, Perry crashed it.
In June 1997, Lt. Gov. Bullock announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 1998. Sharp and Perry quickly said they would.
On a GOP ticket just below popular Gov. George W. Bush, Perry eked out a narrow victory, even though he ran 691,984 votes behind Bush.
Perry became governor in 2000 after Bush won the presidency, and in 2002 won four more years. Sharp ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, losing to Republican David Dewhurst.
In 2005, Perry and Sharp bumped into each other at a gun store, and decided to call off their feud.
They decided Sharp, the former state tax collector and current tax consultant, would head a Perry-appointed committee to find ways to cut local property taxes, but recover the money elsewhere.
After they announced that at a press conference, Sharp was asked about his political future.
“I’m not very good at politics, probably because I don’t like it,” Sharp joked. “If I were good, I’d be appointing him.”
Never mind that the Perry/Sharp tax swap has left an annual budget deficit of $2 billion-plus, which Perry has done nothing to cure.
Sharp has now been named chancellor of Texas A&M University, by a Perryappointed board. Perry is running for president.
And at this point, those stories either could tell to ruin the other’s career are unlikely to be told.
Contact McNeely at email@example.com or (512) 458- 2963.