A disgraced Perry returns to Texas

Governor finally bows out of GOP race, but only after making mockery of himself and our state

Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

After months of holding their breaths in dread of what Rick Perry might do or say next on the national stage, Texans are now witnessing the ignominious return of their governor to the state.

Everyone knew Perry would eventually be on his way back, but clarity suddenly and inexplicably has also come to the befuddled candidate earlier than expected. Just two days before the South Carolina primary Perry announced Thursday, Jan. 19 at a press conference he was finally giving up his fruitless bid for the presidency. “There is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign,” he said to a national audience that undoubtedly chanted back to the television screen, “It’s about time!”

When Perry gets back to the $10,000-per-month rented house afforded him by state taxpayers, he will be regarded by most Texans in a vastly different light from when he left after announcing his presidential political ambitions in August. Once the pride and joy of conservatives here, Perry had fallen to third in his home state behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic group that polled 559 Texas Republican primary voters Jan. 12-15.

The same poll results suggest that for once Republicans and Democrats agree strongly on something — Perry has fractured the state’s image with a multitude of missteps and misstatements that often bordered on the surreal. Of Republican voters 39 percent said they viewed Perry’s candidacy as having cast the state in a negative light, in comparison to 13 percent that viewed it as a positive, according to the poll.

In contrast Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose libertarian philosophy led to his being pegged as a “fringe” candidate by the media, fared much better than Perry. Only 28 percent of Republican voters said Paul’s candidacy has hurt the state’s image, while 19 percent said it was an enhancement.

As a practical matter, the poll results only confirm what had already become obvious to many people who were accustomed to hearing strong support for Perry during casual political debates. The most ardent of former Perry supporters apparently are too embarrassed to speak up for him anymore. Many people clearly are wondering how Perry’s inability to think and talk at the same time had gone undetected for so long before God told him to run for president.

Even prominent gay Dallas Republican Rob Schlein — who vowed early on he would vote for Perry if he was the Republican nominee for president regardless of the governor’s legendary anti-gay rhetoric — took to bashing Perry on Facebook because of the candidate’s poor performances. The loss of support from Schlein — who recently vowed he would vote for the ultra-conservative Rick Santorum if he becomes the nominee — illustrates just how far Perry’s political fortunes have sunk.

To make the situation even more annoying, Perry’s candidacy has cost Texas taxpayers quite a bit of money for his protection while on the campaign trail. Security costs for Perry incurred by the Texas Department of Public Safety amounted to about $400,000 per month, according to a Texas Tribune examination of the agency’s records.

David-Webb

David Webb | The Rare Reporter

The financial analysis would suggest that Perry’s decision to continue on with his presidential campaign after coming in fifth place in the Iowa caucus cost Texans another needless several hundred thousand dollars in security costs. His resolve to proceed in New Hampshire and South Carolina after strongly hinting following the Iowa thrashing that he was about to give up and head home left many Texans bewildered.

In Perry’s campaign speeches he pointed toward the South Carolina primary as the deal-breaker for him if he could not get the state’s conservative religious voters behind him.

Presumably it finally dawned on Perry that he was in store for another humiliating failure, seeing as how he was in last place in the polls with only about 6 percent supporting him, after the conservative religious establishment decided in a meeting in Texas last weekend to throw its support behind Rick Santorum.

In making the announcement he would drop out of the race and that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, Perry said, “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat.” That was a statement that many will likely view as humorous, given the governor’s apparent long delay in coming to that realization.

In fairness to the governor, it’s no doubt a difficult task for a political candidate who has never before lost an election to return home in disgrace. It doesn’t help matters much that while Perry was on the campaign trail a gay former Texas legislator, Glen Maxey, published a book with anonymous sources claiming the governor is a closeted hypocrite who engaged in a past secret homosexual life. The governor’s campaign denounced the book as a pack of lies, but the publication of a book expanding on the rumors that have plagued him for six years must at the very least be frustrating — even if they possibly did happen to be true.

As the longest-serving governor in Texas history with 11 years under his cowboy buckle belt, Perry destroyed his reputation as a strong governor on the presidential campaign trail. He went from double-digit frontrunner status ahead of Mitt Romney — the likely nominee barring a new surge by one of the other three candidates in the up-and-down race — to last place.

Ever the optimist, Perry declared with his wife and son by his side that he wasn’t disenchanted and he wasn’t discouraged to be packing up and heading home. He declared that he felt rewarded for having followed the “calling” to run for president. “And this I know, I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”

It appeared that at the end of the announcement Perry was again drifting off into that mindset that got him into the race in the first place. It was unclear where Perry planned to wage that fight now that his campaign is over, but he assured viewers, “Things are going to be good no matter what I do.”

Maybe he was referring to the luxury in which he and wife Anita undoubtedly will be living for the rest of their lives, because it’s not likely to be a continuation of his successful political career.  Or maybe he is hoping for some sort of political appointment or an opportunity from the business leaders he has courted as governor.

One thing is for sure, the “God and Country,” Bible-thumping proclamations that kept winning Perry re-elections to the governor’s office failed him on the national stage for president, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never again serve him quite as well in Texas politics. And it’s a good thing for the governor that he became wealthy as a career office-holder because his political eulogy is now being drafted by pundits nationwide.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Poll shows Perry now trailing Romney

Thanks to his disastrous performance in last week’s debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has fallen behind Mitt Romney in the latest poll of likely voters in the GOP presidential primary. The Fox News poll released Wednesday shows Perry with 19 percent, behind Romney with 23 percent. Herman Cain is third with 17 percent. The poll’s margin of error is ± 3 percent. From The Houston Chronicle:

While one poll isn’t a trend and it will take additional polls to confirm the findings, the results seem to indicate that Perry’s poor debate performance may have done more damage to the Perry campaign than originally thought.

Perry has attempted to mitigate the damage from that debate by claiming that he is truer to conservative principles, even if Romney is the more avuncular debater.

As part of that damage control effort, CNN reported that Perry has also participated in telephone-townhalls with conservative activists in Iowa and South Carolina, where he again tried to explain his positions on immigration, border security and the controversial HPV vaccinations that he mandated.

To top it all off, Perry told a conservative blog earlier today that he may have been over the top in his description of critics of the Texas DREAM Act, walking back from his earlier comments at the debate where he said that critics of the program did not “have a heart.”

Read the full poll results here.

UPDATE: Perry is also now fourth in a poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, behind Romney, Michele Bachmann and “undecided.”

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Chick-fil-A goes anti-gay; Frisco man imprisoned for spreading HIV loses appeal

Your midday news roundup from Instant Tea:

• Frisco man convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for spreading HIV loses appeal.

• Chick-fil-A partners with rabidly anti-gay group in Pennsylvania.

• Poll results suggest LGBT community never lost faith in Obama.

More gay characters on TV shows geared toward teens.

• Justice Scalia says Constitution doesn’t protect women, gays from discrimination.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas pushes for anti-bullying legislation

Group also releases poll results showing support for LGBT rights

Tammye Nash  |  nash@dallasvoice.com

Joel-and-Dennis
CITING THE NUMBERS | Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, left, listens as Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman outlines the findings of a poll showing that nearly 80 percent of Texans favor inclusive anti-bullying legislation. Equality Texas kicked off an intensive effort to get such a measure passed during the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature at a press conference in Austin on Monday, Dec. 13. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Equality Texas started ramping up efforts to get a comprehensive anti-bullying law passed in the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature with a press conference Monday, Dec. 13, highlighting results from a recently completed poll on LGBT issues.

In the poll — commissioned by Equality Texas and conducted by the national polling firm Glangariff Group Inc. —  79.2 percent of all respondents said they favored legislation that would “provide direction to Texas teachers on how to protect all children from bullying, harassment and
discrimination in school, including the children of gay and lesbian parents or teenagers who are gay,” according to Equality Texas press materials.

Dennis Coleman, Equality Texas’ executive director, said at Monday’s press conference that while bullying in schools is not new, the recent spate of gay teen suicides stemming from such bullying has “moved this issue up the ranks of issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

“The Dallas school district recently approved new policies to address bullying. Now it is time for the state as a whole to do the same,” Coleman said.

Coleman said that some seven bills addressing bullying have already been pre-filed for their 2011 legislative session. But, he added, Equality Texas “will not support legislation that does not include all children.”

Chuck Smith, the lobbying organization’s deputy executive director, said that Equality Texas prefers the language in legislation prefiled by Sen. Wendy Davis, which updates the definition of bullying and includes cyber-bullying, and which specifically includes LGBT students.

The bill also calls for data to be collected on bullying and provides guidelines for teachers and administrators on how to respond.

Rep. Mark Strama of Austin has prefiled a similar bill in the House of Representatives. However, Smith said, Strama’s bill does not specifically include the requirement of collecting data on bullying targeting a student’s gender identity or expression.

“That phrase is very important,” Smith said. “Strama’s bill includes gender identity and expression in the definition of bullying, but not in the section requiring collection of data on bullying.”

“These bills provide a present-day definition of what bullying is, and that is so important because too many lawmakers conjure up an image of a skirmish on the playground. That is not bullying,” Smith said. “Bullying is a repetitive pattern based on an imbalance of power and intimidation.”
Smith also said the data collection requirements are an essential piece of the anti-bullying effort.

“In most districts, if you were to ask them they would say they don’t have a problem with bullying. But if you ask them specifically how many incidents they had last year, they can’t answer because they are not currently required to collect that data,” Smith said.

Collecting such statistics, he added, will allow districts to inform their teachers and administrators, at the campus level on whether their anti-bullying training programs are effective.

“There are a lot of common sense things you would assume are already in the Texas Education Code, but they aren’t,” Smith said. “We want to see legislation passed that fills those gaps.”
Gay Fort City Councilman Joel Burns — who became the face of anti-bullying efforts when video of his Oct. 12 speech on his own experience of being bullied as a gay teen went viral — spoke at the press conference, agreeing with Coleman that bullying “is a problem we cannot afford to ignore another day.

Burns said, “As I stand here, there are Texas children who believe their only escape from the bullying and harassment is to put a gun to their heads and pull the trigger, empty the pill bottle into their mouths and swallow, or tighten the noose around their necks and step off the chair.

“Today and every day, those children, without hope, live in our Texas cities and towns, in our neighborhoods, go to school with our children, and unfortunately, might even be children in your own family,” Burns said.

Anne Wynne, new co-chair of the Equality Texas board, participated in the Monday press conference, reading a statement from former Texas first lady and U.S. first lady Laura Bush in support of anti-bullying legislation.

“Bullying of any kind is terrible, and we as adults have to be the ones to do something about it,” Bush’s statement said.
She also described how proud she was of Burns for having the courage to make such a public statement about his own experiences.

Vicki Baldwin, a retired educator with 42 years in the field, said passage of anti-bullying legislation is “a moral issue. You do not treat people — anybody — badly. You do not pick on people because they are different. This is a moral issue, and Texas needs to take the lead” in addressing it.

“In general, I don’t like policies, and I don’t like legislation” Baldwin said. “But I also know everybody isn’t like me. I try to do the right thing, and I always assumed that other people try to do the right thing, too, just instinctively. But that’s not the way it happens. We have reached the point that people’s lives, their actual lives, are involved here, and it is critical that we do something to address it.”

Burns agreed. “Any one life lost is worthy of us taking action,” he said. “And it is past time to take action now.”

Other issues in the poll

Although Monday’s press conference focused on the need for anti-bullying legislation, Equality Texas also released responses from the poll indicating that support for LGBT equality is higher in Texas than most people would assume.

According to the poll, 88 percent of the respondents support a guaranteed right for lesbians and gays to visit their partners in the hospital, and 75.4 percent support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 69.7 support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination against transgenders.

Surprisingly, the poll found that 63.1 percent of those responded support allowing gays and lesbians to get a civil union.
In other findings:
• 75.1 percent support a guaranteed right for lesbians and gays to make end-of-life decisions for their partners.
• 68.8 percent support giving gays and lesbians the same legal rights as heterosexual parents regarding their children.
• 67.3 percent support hate crime legislation protecting transgenders.
• 65.4 percent support legal rights of gays and lesbians to inherit their partners’ possessions when no will is in place.

Poll results were also examined based on the political party affiliation of respondents:
• Democratic voters support all 12 LGBT rights listed in the poll by a majority above 65 percent.
• 77.8 percent of Democrats support civil unions for gays and lesbians.
• Independent voters give majority support to 11 of the 12 rights, supporting six of the 12 by more than 65 percent.
• The only right independent voters do not support is the right of same-sex couples to marry. However, 59.4 percent of independent voters do support civil unions.
• A majority of Republican voters support nine of 12 of the LGBT rights covered by the poll, including supporting five of the 12 at levels higher than 65 percent.
• Republican voters do not support the right to same-sex marriage, but 57.6 percent do support civil unions for gays and lesbians.
In looking at responses broken down by religiosity, the poll found:
• A majority of respondents who attend weekly religious services support nine of the 12 rights covered in the poll.
• 51.1 percent of those who attend religious services weekly support civil unions for gays and lesbians.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

As Equality Texas unveils poll results on bullying, Rep. Anchia files gay adoption measure

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

Senior editor Tammye Nash is down in Austin this morning, where as we speak Equality Texas is holding a press conference to unveil poll results showing that 80 percent of Texans support anti-bullying legislation that protects gay teenagers and the children of gay parents. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is also there, and comments from former first lady Laura Bush will be shared. More on that here for now and later from Tammye.

But elsewhere on the legislative front this morning, it looks like State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has again filed legislation that would allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both of their names listed on a child’s birth certificate. This issue has been the subject of litigation in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled that the state must issue an amended birth certificate listing the names of both gay parents. The Louisiana attorney general is appealing the ruling, and the gay parents are represented by Ken Upton of Lambda Legal in Dallas, who tells us he’s also itching to challenge Texas’ statute if Anchia’s bill doesn’t pass.

Anchia’s HB 415, filed Friday and similar to a bill he filed last session, would strike language from the Health and Safety Code as shown below:

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—  John Wright