Rick and Kay were both some of the earliest Republicans to hold statewide office in Texas. Yes, there was Senator Tower and a handful of others, but in terms of the modern and current Republican dominance of the state, Rick and Kay were two of the early adopters. In 1990, both Rick and Kay were elected to statewide office.
Rick beat incumbent Democrat Jim Hightower for Agriculture Commissioner. In Rick's 1990 race, Hightower was, according to an old school GOP insider, "up by 20 or 30 points right after the primary, but ended up losing to [Rick] by a slim margin." Jim Hightower was popular in the agricultural community... sort of a populist progressive type of politician with the power of incumbency behind him, so Rick's victory was a definite upset.
Ironically, Kay beat a woman named Nikki Von Hightower (no relation to Jim, as far as I know) for state treasurer, a position that no longer exists, that same year. Nikki was an unpopular radical feminist with a history of being fired from jobs (link), so Kay's victory was not as hard fought as Rick's. The opening for the now nonexistent position emerged because the previous incumbent Ann Richards was in a race for governor in 1990.
Back to Jim Hightower. He's still around, writing books and columns, and he is taking out some of his 1990 frustration on Rick (link). He's calling Rick a "goober," which is sad, considering that his political career ended due to Rick. Excerpt follows...
Perry's gooberness has gone viral. He's a YouTube phenomenon and a new darling of the GOP kingmaker, Rush Limbaugh.It's hard to take someone seriously when they criticize someone who beat them in a political campaign. It's kind of like John Kerry criticizing George W. Bush. It's just sort of "you lost, get over it."
He broke into national consciousness on April 15, when he spoke at one of the many "teabag" rallies that Republican operatives set up around the country to protest Barack Obama's deficit spending. Appearing in Austin before a boisterous crowd of about a thousand people who were fuming about everything from gun control to the Wall Street bailout, the governor opened with this shot: "I'm sure you're not just a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, I'm with you."