October 2010: My first contact with Rick Perry

Last October I traveled to Houston to attend the funeral of David McNerney, a Lowell native who was awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and who also was my mother’s cousin. Up early the morning of the funeral, I tuned the radio in my hotel room to a local talk station. The gubernatorial election was in full swing and the Republican nominee was the incumbent, Rick Perry, who is now a candidate for the presidency. Here’s what I wrote about my brief exposure to Texas politics eleven months ago:

Ten days ago I traveled to Houston to attend the funeral of Medal of Honor recipient and Lowell native David McNerney. There’s a hotly contested race for governor down there between Republican incumbent Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White, so during my 48 hours in the Lone Star State, I paid close attention to all the political activity on TV, the radio and in the newspaper.

The Houston Chronicle carried a front page story with the headline “Price tag for Perry trips $928,477”, a story that outlined the cost the state paid for security on numerous out of the country trips by Perry. In the same edition of the paper, a columnist, Rick Casey, wrote about the state’s “now controversial” emerging technology fund. Defenders said the fund was “great for Houston” but the columnist (and other newspapers around the state, apparently) criticize the fund for being “a kitty from which Governor Rick Perry rewards some of his major contributors with multi-million dollar grants.”

Picking up on this theme, television ads run by White, the former mayor of Houston, attack Perry with a script saying “Under Rick Perry, Texas is for sale” and cites declines in education and employment. The ad closed with “Bill White – he’s in it for Texas’ future.”

Perry, of course, was running attack ads of his own in which he sought to tie White to President Obama. “While Bill White was mayor of Houston, he doubled the city’s debt: Say no to Obama-style spending.” Another ad closed with “Obama and White: Wrong for Texas.” Both of the Perry ads and other ads for lesser offices repeatedly used this line: “he followed an unbusinesslike approach”, something I’ve never heard in an ad up here. (I assume polls how people in Texas feel strongly that government should be run “like a business”).

After sifting through the usual litany of national conservative talk radio, I found a local program that proved interesting. “The Alan Warren Outdoor Radio Show” very quickly got into politics by replaying a recent interview the host had conducted with Governor Perry, a lifelong hunter. The Governor said that “outdoor education is just as important as math or writing.” Perry said he has hunted since he was a small child and said that hunting was all about “managing resources and keeping populations in balance”, something he said non-hunters just don’t understand.

Finally, the newspaper carried a large legal notice about early voting, a notice that was written in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The notice said “early voting by personal appearance would be available October 18-29” at 37 listed sites around the city.