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September 02, 2003

Park Cities Paper Opposes Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a shocker. The local newspaper serving Highland Park and University Park (upper class suburban enclaves surrounded by Dallas on all sides, which vote about 80-90% Republican) urged Kay Bailey Hutchison to come home and bring some sense to the governor's office. Interested? Read on.

Won’t you come home, Kay Bailey? If Rick Perry calls another session, Republicans should elect another governor

The line is 10-1 that Rick Perry will call another special session to jam through Congressional redistricting. As we’ve said before and will say again, the Republicans have every right to redistrict. The voters gave them the power, and the voters expect them to use that power. But we doubt the voters expected they would use their power so ineptly. While the governor pursues his one-track strategy, a buzzing host of financial troubles hovers overhead. When those troubles descend on Texas, there will be hell to pay. The governor’s political clumsiness has created a legislative crisis that leaves Texas unprepared and unarmed to fend for itself.

There’s more. Seasoned political observers talk about the new GOP leadership with a growing cynicism that long-time Republicans should find appalling. From the stories that are circulating, the new Republican leaders don’t sound much different that the old Democrats who controlled the state for over 100 years.

Corruption is hard to track and harder to prove. A major donor buys a private jet for $500,000 and then sells it to an aspiring candidate for $100,000, which he borrows personally so he can campaign across state. When the election is over, the now-elected official turns around and sells the plane on the open market for $400,000. In these transactions, nothing illegal has occurred. Yet the official has pocketed $300,000 before taxes.

But most things are subtler than that. The intertwining of business interests with state regulation provides a fertile field for mischief. Take the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as an example. One of its three members is a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council. Another of its three members, appointed by Rick Perry, is a long-time activist for the Texas Cattleraisers Association, whose lobbyist also happens to represent various utility and chemical interests before the Commission on which she serves. Nothing wrong with that. But how do you think this Commission votes when chemical industry interests are at stake? It makes a joke of the Commission’s name.

Anything illegal here? Not at all. It’s all business as usual in Austin — and that’s the other problem with this governor, besides his ineptitude. He’s a Republican who could as easily be a Democrat. There’s not, in the famous phrase, a dime’s worth of difference between how state government is operated now under the GOP than how it operated under the Tory Democrats who ran the state for over 100 years.

That’s why many Republicans’ eyes are turning to Washington, where Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has served Texas with honor and distinction. We don’t agree with her on every issue (it’s time to dump the Wright Amendment, Senator), but we are second to none in our respect for her abilities and her probity.

Senator Hutchison is a Republican to her fingertips. She grew up in an insurgent Texas Republican Party whose goal was reform, not business as usual. Her integrity is unquestioned. Her good sense is well known. Her political instincts are excellent.

If Kay Bailey were to challenge Rick Perry in the March primary, Texas Republicans would face a clear choice. There’s no question the battle would be bloody. Perry is the kind of politician who, because he believes in nothing, will stop at nothing to get elected. The primary is dominated by the kind of hard-nut conservative that gives that admirable word an almost pejorative meaning. And, finally, Republicans are notoriously loath to fight it out in public.

Against that, Kay Bailey has advantages. She is the most popular Republican in the state, next to the president himself. She is a prodigious fund raiser. She has a deeply embedded network of support throughout the state.

If Rick Perry goes through with his threat to call another session, costing the taxpayers another $30 million, he may achieve his obsession of getting Tom DeLay three more seats in the U.S. Congress. But if he thinks that’s why Texans elected him, he’s reading tea leaves, not election results. The Republicans received a mandate, but not for this. The GOP needs to replenish and reclaim that mandate. It will achieve that by addressing and fixing the state’s problems, not by adding to them.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, come home.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 2, 2003 02:06 PM | TrackBack

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