GOP running on Perry’s record
It’s the first election after the redistricting that follows the census every 10 years. So all 31 Texas Senate districts are up, because of changed lines, rather than the 15 or 16 on the ballot in most elections.
When the Senate convenes next January, senators will draw to see which get two-year terms, and which get the full four, to return to staggered four-year terms until the next redistricting.
Perry’s prime-time presidential pratfall raised his profile significantly more than it might otherwise have been. And just about every Republican is going to be running on Perry’s record -- whether they like it or not.
That includes Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Even though his job as presiding officer of the Texas Senate isn’t up for election until 2014, when Perry’s is also up, Dewhurst in 2012 is seeking the U.S. Senate seat Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison is giving up.
So since he’s headed the Senate for all but the first two years of Perry’s governorship, that’s the record he’ll have to defend. Perry’s pursuit of chopping the state’s budget for public schools, and loss of federal payments for women’s health care, can also be laid at Dewhurst’s feet.
Dewhurst and many incumbent Republican legislators may be okay with the situation, if they share Perry’s no-new-taxes, cuts-only budget-balancing for the schools, and the effort to gut Planned Parenthood.
But with contraception and women’s health getting lots of attention because of the Republican presidential primaries, Democrats have tagged Perry’s approach a “War on Women.”
With hundreds of red-clad, sign-carrying women responding to Austin musician Marcia Ball’s “Seeing Red” call to join her to protest in front of the capitol, the governor essentially has teed up all the Republican candidates on issues like women’s health and school spending.
Add the fight over the law Perry signed last year requiring a driver’s license or other photo ID to vote, and Republicans can be tagged as not just anti-kid and anti-woman, but anti-Hispanic: Trying to make it tougher for Hispanics at the polls.
This comes as some Republicans warn that their party’s strength in states like Texas increasingly will depend upon how successful they are in attracting Hispanics – the growth industry in Texas politics.
Perry apparently is feeling the heat from the “Seeing Red” ladies and men.
At the second Tuesday of protests, on March 13, a Planned Parenthood bus, tagged the “Women’s Health Express,” was parked a few feet away – with the capitol as a backdrop for the cameras.
A large red, white and blue banner down the side of the bus said: “Governor Perry, don’t take away women’s health care.”
The next day, Perry’s office put out a press release, accompanied by letters dated March 13 from the House and Senate Republican Caucuses. A majority of the Republican legislators said they voted for the law Perry is following, and still endorse his actions.
“The Obama Administration has announced it will cease funding Texas’ Women’s Health Program (WHP) because of the state law, which prohibits organizations like Planned Parenthood who provide abortions and affiliate with abortion providers from participating in the WHP,” Perry’s press statement said.
“The law was initially passed in 2005, and reauthorized in 2011 by SB 7. Gov. Perry has announced the state will find funding to continue services to the more than 100,000 low-income Texas women served by WHP.”
All 19 Republican state senators and 77 of the 102 Republican House members were listed as signing the letters.
An incentive for signing is that many Republican legislators, if not most, think their biggest hurdle will be in the GOP primary, not the general election. They fear their opposition will come from the Tea Party right, not their left.
However, with the primary election postponed from March 6 to May 29, and with some school board members and former superintendents running against incumbents, that could produce some heat from the other direction.
That’s because school districts will be firming up their budgets for the 2012-13 school year before the primary, not afterward, as would have been the case had the earlier date been used.
So in addition to the shouting about women’s health, voters may be out for blood after they see how the $5 billion tax cut affects their schools.
Both Perry and Dewhurst seem to welcome the combat. But folks down the ballot – maybe even Dewhurst -- may come to wish Perry hadn’t widened the spotlight so much it includes them.
Contact McNeely at email@example.com or (512) 458- 2963.