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Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?
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Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?

Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?

Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop last month in Houston.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop last month in Houston. The two-term governor is seeking an unprecedented third term in office. David J. Phillip/AP hide caption

toggle caption David J. Phillip/AP

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has served as chief executive of the Lone Star State since 2000, is running for an unprecedented third term. But his opponent in the November election, former Houston Mayor Bill White, is making a better showing than anyone expected in this reddest of red states.

Perry has been governor of Texas since George W. Bush left Austin for Washington in 2000. He has been in office so long that every one of the state's myriad courts and commissions has Perry appointees. He has been there so long that the moniker bestowed on him by the late Molly Ivins, "Governor Good Hair," has become passe. He has been there so long that in the minds of many voters the election comes down to "More Rick Perry?" or "No more Rick Perry?"

What better barometer of the electoral mood than the State Fair of Texas in Dallas? Specifically, the fried food row where Texans line up to sample such culinary curiosities as fried moon pies, fried Frito pie and fried butter.

Rob Clearfield, a teacher and coach from Rowlett, Texas, is in line to order the fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He says he supports Perry.

"I think with our economy here in Texas, it's the best in the United States," he said. "So for that reason I think he's done an incredible job to take care of our state."

Dr. Cathy Rinert, a Dallas physician who installs hospital software, is at a table eating a corny dog and considering the latest deep-fried fantasy: fried beer. She says she thinks Perry has been in office too long.

"I think the incumbent is not interesting to me because he's been in the governor's house for a long time and he's got a long track record, which is not necessarily one that has benefited Texas in the past," she said.

Voter Fatigue?

Perry paints himself as a conservative's conservative — a sort of Ronald Reagan for Texas. He has tapped Tea Party anger by bashing President Obama at every opportunity, leading some to believe the governor wants to be president, a rumor he denies.

Perry preaches less regulation on business, low taxes, states' rights and pistol-packin' freedom. In fact, the governor may have picked up a few votes in this gun-loving state last spring when he shot a coyote with a handgun he sometimes straps on while jogging.

But not all of his record has been amusing. Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, spoke on radio station KUT.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White answers a question at a news conference last month in Houston. The former Houston mayor is making a better showing than anyone expected in the race against Gov. Rick Perry. David J. Phillip/AP hide caption

toggle caption David J. Phillip/AP

"Rick Perry's been governor for 10 years, and the reality is that after 10 years in office there is a certain amount of fatigue that sets in, whether you're Rick Perry or somebody else, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat," Smith said.

Accusations

Critics see a pattern of insider dealings in the long tenure of the 60-year-old Perry. Three notable examples:

— The pharmaceutical giant Merck hired the governor's former chief of staff as lobbyist when the governor ordered all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated with a new anti-virus drug.

— A Perry legislative aide worked for a Spanish highway company that won a state contract to build a vast network of toll roads across the state.

— Texas chicken king Bo Pilgrim donated $125,000 to Perry's GOP interests after the governor requested a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency's ethanol rules that Pilgrim wanted.

Economic Record

On the other hand, while the nation has gone through tough times, Texas has prospered under Perry. National magazines praise the state's robust business climate, which Perry brags about in his campaign messages.

"We created more jobs this year than any other state," he said recently. "We've led the nation in exports for the eighth year running. And we have more Fortune 1000 companies than anyone else."

He doesn't mention the current projected budget shortfall of $18 billion, which will certainly mean further cuts in a state that already ranks near the bottom in social and education spending.

"Our current governor doesn't seem to have a clue," White, Perry's Democratic rival, told TV station KXAN. "We need somebody who has had business experience, who can bring good business skills to state government and squeeze the value out of a dollar.

"And that's what I did at the city of Houston."

The 56-year-old is a three-term mayor of Houston and former deputy energy secretary under President Clinton.

White is closer to Perry in the polls — 5 to 7 points down — than anyone anticipated three weeks from Election Day.

The governor counts on guaranteed airtime — the power of incumbency. And it didn't hurt when Newsweek put Perry and his fancy black cowboy boots on the cover in April behind the headline "Don't Mess With Texas."

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