September 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Perry quits 2016 presidential bid

Rick Perry, Texas, Republican Party, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Gov. Rick Perry has quit his 2016 bid. (R-Texas) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Hampered by low poll numbers and a campaign staff forced to work for free, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry announced on Friday he’s quitting his 2016 bid for the White House.

The two-time candidate for president invoked his faith as he announced his decision to abandon his campaign in St Louis, Mo., at the headquarters for social conservative group known as the Eagle Forum.

“When I gave my life to Christ, I said, ‘Your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine,'” Perry said. “Today I submit that his will remains a mystery, but some things have become clear. That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States.”

Bowing out of the race months before the Iowa caucuses in January, Perry touted his record as a three-term Texas governor as well as the “tremendous field of candidates” seeking the Republican nomination.

Although he didn’t name a candidate he would endorse in his place, Perry said the Republican Party is in good hands with these contenders — provided the GOP continues to listen to grassroots support.

The candidate, who made national security issues a prominent component of his campaign, elected to exit the race on the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Perry also took at subtle dig as Republican front-runner Donald Trump and the anti-immigrant policy that is cornerstone of his campaign, saying “we cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further.”

“The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief,” Perry said.

The candidate had a history of anti-gay views even before he started his 2016 campaign. He’s known for his opposition to same-sex marriage and famously said in a TV ad for his 2012 campaign, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military and our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.”

Over the course of his most recent campaign, Perry said the “horse is out of the barn” when asked if he would reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” suggesting he wouldn’t he seek that policy but remains open to it.

Just before the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly scout masters, Perry said his position is the venerated institution is “better off” without gay adults.

Although he’s an opponent of same-sex marriage, Perry was not among the four candidates who signed a pledge with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage to oppose same-sex marriage over the course of their potential administrations.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Perry’s decision to exit the race come as no surprise.

“Gov. Perry’s best chance at the presidency was in 2012,” Angelo said. “He never managed to catch fire this cycle and differentiate himself in a far larger and unique field. I certainly won’t be missing his equations of homosexuality and alcoholism on the campaign trail. If voters were looking for a pro-LGBT Republican candidate, Perry was far from the best choice anyway.”

The first candidate to drop out of the 2016 race, Perry endured low poll numbers and never emerged from single-digits throughout his presidential bid. The candidate didn’t poll high enough to qualify for the first official Republican presidential debate, nor to make it in one of the 11 slots for the second debate scheduled for next week.

Abysmal funds also plagued Perry’s campaign. As fundraising dried up, media outlets reported he stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Even though he was exiting, Perry struck an optimistic tone, saying he has no regrets and being able to speak with Americans about their hopes and dreams has “been an honor.”

“This is up to us,” Perry said. “It is up to you. And to me. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s get to work. Let’s make America, America again.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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