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First Mention: Rick Perry Runs For Texas Agriculture Commissioner

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When a name like Rick Perry re-emerges in the day's news, we dip into our audio archives for a...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: First mention.

SIEGEL: The earliest reference to Rick Perry that we could find on NPR was on October 27, 1990. And he was talking mushrooms.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK PERRY: Folks, we can grow reishi mushrooms in our backyards and Chinese cabbage and blueberries until the world looks level. And we ain't going to make a real impact on the Texas economy.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Perry was talking mushrooms back then because he was running for state agricultural commissioner. He was challenging the incumbent Democrat, Jim Hightower.

SIEGEL: Perry argued that the office needed to get back to the basics of Texas agriculture, like cattle, corn and cotton.

CORNISH: He said Hightower was too focused on less traditional crops like wine grapes, cut flowers and those mushrooms.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: Now, we may have a heck of a time out there on the sides of the roads selling those babies and meeting lots of interesting people. But we are not going to make a dent - we're not going to make a blip on that economic graph in the state of Texas.

CORNISH: Jim Hightower was way ahead in the polls at the time. So almost everyone was caught by surprise when Rick Perry narrowly won that election in 1990.

SIEGEL: It was Perry's first win at statewide office and well before he went on to become Texas governor and maybe the next secretary of energy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.