Friday, January 29, 2010

GOP Has a REAL RACE for Governor Shaping Up

Hutchison, Medina gang up on Perry in debate

DALLAS — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and political activist Debra Medina ganged up on front-running Gov. Rick Perry on Friday in the final televised debate before the March 2 Republican primary.

Hutchison sought to undermine Perry’s record on the economy by criticizing his oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund. She characterized the job creation program, created at Perry’s urging in 2003, as a failure and said it lacked transparency.

“These are jobs that mostly would have come here anyway,” she said.

Medina, meanwhile, said Perry had exaggerated the health of the Texas economy and had been unrealistic about the tough times Texans are facing.

“I think the governor has tried to paint with a broad, rose-colored brush to say that everything is great and rosy in Texas and I’ve been able to feel the pain, if you will, of Texans and to know that we’re hurting out there,” she said.

Perry has taken credit for making Texas a bright spot in an otherwise dour U.S. economy. On Friday night he said the budget cuts and lawsuit reforms he has advocated as governor helped set the stage for the state’s relatively strong business climate, and he strongly defended the Enterprise Fund.

“I will defend that any day,” he said. “It is very transparent.”

The three Republican gubernatorial candidates began sparring at 7 p.m. at WFAA-TV studios in Dallas. The one-hour live broadcast, which touched on issues ranging from border security to transportation, was expected to be the last televised debate among the GOP candidates before the March 2 primaries. Early voting begins Feb. 16.

The GOP trio appeared at a televised debate earlier this month in Denton. Original plans for the WFAA event had excluded Medina, but organizers cited a public opinion poll showing the feisty conservative had enough voter support to meet their criteria for inclusion. The same poll showed Perry leading Hutchison by 10 points.

Medina promotes the view that Texas doesn’t have to put up with mandates from Washington and can assert its sovereignty more aggressively through legal “nullification” of federal mandates on environmental protection, health care, guns and other areas. She hasn’t ruled out Texas seceding from the United States and forming an independent nation.

Houston businessman Farouk Shami and former Houston Mayor Bill White are the top candidates vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The Democratic and Republican contenders who emerge from the primaries will face off in November.

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