AUSTIN — GOP Gov. Rick Perry is walking a fine line as he rejects importing Arizona's get-tough immigration law but blasts the feds for challenging it and refuses to take part in a border governors' conference forced out of Phoenixby a boycott.
Bashing the law would be “political suicide,” especially with the GOP base, said Mark Jones, Rice University political science professor, citing polls showing majority support for the law and opposition to the federal government's effort to block it.
But with Hispanics in particular worried over the law's civil rights implications, championing such a law for Texas would be risky, too.
“He doesn't need a majority (of the Hispanic vote), but he needs a third, a quarter,” Jones said. “He also does not want it to become an issue that Latinos mobilize around ... He is on a tightrope here.”
So Perry keeps his balance by saying the law's not a good fit for Texas but fine for another state to try on.
He was supportive of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in a Fox News interview when she canceled the border conference after six Mexican governors said they'd boycott it due to the law.
He said he wouldn't attend the meeting if it were moved elsewhere.
“It is supposed to be in Arizona ... this is Arizona's time. That is what we told Jan,” Perry said.
After New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardsonsaid he'd host the conference, Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger confirmed Perry wouldn't attend.
Perry said of the law, “I totally respect Jan's position of being able to do what she feels and her legislature feels they need to be doing on that border.”
He also has touted Texas joining in a court brief asserting states' authority to enforce immigration requirements, after the federal government sued. “Until the federal government secures the border, I expect more states to legislate in an effort to protect their citizens,” Perry said in a press release. Democratic challenger Bill White said communities would be less safe if police were diverted from combating crime to doing the federal government's immigration work — much as Perry early on expressed concern that an Arizona-style law would turn law officers away from existing duties.
If elected, White promised to veto any similar Texas legislation, as my colleague Gilbert Garcia reported, and challenged Perry to do the same. Cesinger said it's “premature to speculate about any legislation.”
And it could make a candidate lose his balance.
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Democratic State Board of Education candidate Judy Jennings is disturbed by an Austin American-Statesman report that her GOP opponent, Marsha Farney, referred to “those America-bashing Democrats” at a July 4th Tea Party gathering.
“I guess she believes that anyone who's a Democrat is an America-basher, which maybe means that we don't love our country as much as others do who aren't Democrats,” Jennings said, as my colleague Gary Scharrer reported. Jennings and Farney are competing for the District 10 seat, which stretches from the Houston area to Austin. Read more on Texas Politics.
It's week six of waiting for Perry to agree to a debate since White released his tax returns for his time as Houston mayor. Perry's camp says a debate is contingent on White's release of returns from his time as deputy energy secretary under Clinton and as Democratic Party chairman.