Friday, June 13, 2008

Rick Perry: "I'll see you on the battlefield."

Perry rallies GOP delegates at convention

But some question whether he should run for a third term as governor.

June 13, 2008

By W. Gardner Selby
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

HOUSTON — Gov. Rick Perry entered the Republican Party of Texas state convention Thursday and, backed by a blast of "Deep in the Heart (of Texas)," made a strong play at soothing doubts about his leadership among delegates not necessarily inclined to embrace him.

"Alone, one person can only do so much," Perry said as a horn soloist tootled. A uniformed band popped out behind him after he said Republicans amounted to a movement transforming Texas.

"So let's march on together; let's serve together; let's win together," Perry closed. "I'll see you on the battlefield."

Confetti rained on Perry and his wife, Anita, as delegates stood and applauded.

"He's a very good pitchman," delegate Kevin Massey said after Perry had finished.

The 30-minute speech ranged from Perry's fresh vow to restore the fire-damaged Governor's Mansion to a recap of measures adopted during his seven-year-plus watch intended to restrict frivolous lawsuits and abortion, ban gay marriage, cut taxes and encourage job growth.

Before Perry spoke, Massey was among some delegates who volunteered misgivings about the West Texas native who succeeded George W. Bush in the state's top elected position in late 2000.

Perry, whose tenure as governor will set a record later this year, revealed this spring that he plans to run for a third full term in 2010, making him the first major figure to declare his intentions.

Massey said he'd prefer Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst or U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for governor.

Like some other delegates, Massey took issue with Perry's advocacy of toll roads around the state.

Dewhurst likewise critiqued Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan, telling delegates: "Folks, you can't build toll roads in rural Texas. For heaven's sake, don't mess with Texas private property rights."

Massey also singled out Perry's ultimately rebuffed order last year that teenage girls be vaccinated against a virus that can cause cervical cancer, and what he called Perry's lax stance on enforcing security on the U.S.-Mexico border. Perry has said he doesn't see the practicality of a border wall.

"I'm going to keep my eye on him," Massey said. "A man can say all he wants; it's what he does where the rubber hits the road."

Perry told delegates he'll ask the 2009 Legislature to find a way to return to taxpayers, through tax cuts or another mechanism, what he said will be $10 billion in surplus tax revenue by 2010-11. Dewhurst said likewise.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, who says the surplus will be closer to $15 billion, later told delegates: "It's your money; we need to give it back."

Perry, Craddick and Dewhurst separately drew roars from delegates by saying the Republican-led Legislature needs to pass a proposal requiring voters to present photo identification to vote. Democratic senators, saying the change would discourage voting, united in the 2007 session to stop an ID proposal.

Perry, speaking to U.S.-Mexico border security, said he would ask lawmakers to launch a state plan combatting drug gangs who help fuel criminal activities along the border.

The governor, who initially supported former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for president, called on activists to rally around presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Other speakers among Republicans, who have held every statewide office since early 1999, included state Comptroller Susan Combs, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Michael Williams, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission.

They thanked about 3,000 delegates who had signed in by early afternoon for helping Republicans stay in power.

Leaders also took shots at Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Perry attended a breakfast hosted by the Texas Republican County Chairmen's Association and reminded the crowd that he'd just returned from France and Sweden before taking note of Sweden not adding net jobs since 1970.

"That's the type of socialistic program that Obama wants to bring to America," Perry said, referring to a proposal offered by Obama and other senators to require the president to devise and carry out a policy for cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015.

In his campaign's pavilion near the floor, the governor signed poster-size photographs of himself standing grim-faced near the Rio Grande.

By noon, he'd also signed about 100 copies of his book, "On My Honor," extolling the Boys Scouts and excoriating the American Civil Liberties Union.

Christopher Harvey, a Pearland delegate who posed with Perry, said he'll be open to other gubernatorial candidates, though Perry could still draw his vote because of his record — including the appointment of Wallace Jefferson, an African American, to the post of chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

Perry's "a good, Christian man," Harvey said.; 445-3644

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman

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