News flash: @RickPerry is not running for President. Instead he’s the motorcycle-riding pastor at Haven of Hope, a small Pentecostal church near Yale University in West Haven, CT. Ever since Rick Perry the Texas Governor (whose Twitter handle is @GovernorPerry) declared a presidential run, Rick Perry the Pastor’s inbox and Twitter feed have been flooded with messages, some of support, others of outrage.
But Perry’s life couldn’t be more different from the Lone Star Governor’s. Before starting Haven of Hope just over two years ago, Perry spent 15 years in Botswana, leading an international English-speaking school for 700 students and starting a church in the capital city. Many days he works with recovering addicts in community programs or leads outreach efforts with United Pentecostal Church International.
At first @RickPerry refused TIME’s calls, thinking we were his friends playing yet another presidential joke. “I even sent one friend an email yesterday that said, ‘Nice try!’” he explained. “I’m sorry I assumed you were a prank.”
Here’s what Rick Perry had to say on life sharing a name with a presidential candidate.
When did you first realize the Governor of Texas shared your name?
It was about 4 or 5 years ago. My wife and I flew into Houston to visit my in-laws and got a hotel there through Priceline. They upgraded us when we got there to a really nice suite. In the morning, I called down, and said, “I’m sorry, but I requested an extra towel last night and I still haven’t received it.” Within minutes, there was a knock on the door. It was the manager. He looked shocked when I opened the door. He said, “You’re not Rick Perry!” And I said, “Yes, I am!” And that’s when I found out that the Governor of Texas was Rick Perry.
(PHOTOS: Rick Perry’s Life and Career in Politics)
What has it been like for you since Governor Perry entered the presidential race?
I get blasted on Twitter all the time. I’ve had to turn off all notifications on my phone, because it is out of control. I get emails, I get phone calls, “How’s the race going?” It hasn’t been too drastic, but there have been a few days when it just has gotten irritating. Enough is enough, you know? When we’ve travelled in Texas, every church thought it was entertaining to put on their board, “Join us this Sunday with Special guest Rick Perry!”
Do angry liberals @reply you all the time thinking you are running for president?
Yes. Honestly, 80% of the tweets that I get are very negative. A lot of tweets about the job environment not being good or how’s he going to fix the problem in America. Unfortunately I feel it is still coming, and my friends aren’t helping that. It’s still early in the game—if he actually wins the GOP nomination, I’ve got a feeling I’ll really start to get blasted.
Does that get you down?
I’ve been a minister for a long time. When you work with people, you tend to understand people. It’s just unfortunate they don’t do enough research to figure out I’m not him. I don’t let it get to me. I know they’re not talking about me. You need to be challenged, right?
Do people ever try to give you campaign funds?
No, not yet. I’m secretly hoping someone will want to buy my Twitter account. If they do call, I would have some use for their money, but it won’t go toward politics. It would go for what we are trying to do in New Haven.
What do you think of Governor Perry?
Quite honestly I have a firm belief that I shouldn’t mix what I do with politics at all. I am a registered Republican. I think America is desperate for strong leadership, and is Rick Perry that guy? I don’t know. I like his boots. They are always high end.
You are a Pentecostal pastor. What do you think of Governor Perry’s religious beliefs?
I like the fact that he has a strong religious background. I’ve seen what’s been written about that, mostly through the twitter stuff I get. But if he’s coming across as trying to get the vote of all the religious people by being super religious, I’m not sure that is a smart thing to do.