Texas political observers see new vulnerabilities in their chief executive. Some of the greatest damage may be with the relationship Texas Gov. Rick Perry has with his fastest-growing constituency: The state’s 9 million Hispanics.
“For Hispanics in Texas, his run for president has had deep and serious implications,” said Anthony Gutierrez, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.
Perry suspended his campaign for president this week.
“I think his national spotlight showed some weaknesses that many people may not have ever seen,” said Duke Machado, director of GOP Is For Me, a Hispanic Republican outreach organization, who, nonetheless, believes Perry still is viewed favorably among conservative Hispanics in Texas.
Analysts from both political parties believe that Perry did a highly nuanced Texas two-step through tough political terrain: trying to appeal to a conservative base at the national level that responds favorably to tough talk about immigration, while maintaining a relationship with Hispanic constituents at the state level who tend to view immigration issues differently.
The most visible part of that dance occurred over the past six months in what pundits have described as a relatively brief foray on the national stage. But analysts in Texas point out that Perry’s run for the White House can be traced back at least one and a half years, when work began on his book, “Fed Up,” a political blueprint for office, the type of book that is a virtual prerequisite for every presidential contender.
For Texans, the most active part of Perry’s campaign for president began last January, when the Texas Legislature met as they do every odd-numbered year.
“He used that last session to set up his entire run,” explains Gutierrez. It began with an official designation of “emergency legislation” by the governor, legislation that is so important that the Texas Legislature should pass it in the first 30 days of its 140-day legislative session.
Despite a budget shortfall that was then projected to be as high as $27 billion, Perry’s emergency designation initially contained no fiscal measures, but, instead, had issues that were highly appealing to a conservative Republican base, such as mandating that all women receive a sonogram before they were allowed to have an abortion.
Two of the items that Perry said were “pressing issues” for Texas involved immigration: a prohibition against Texas cities adopting sanctuary status – which would preclude city workers from seeking immigration status – and a voter identification bill to combat a voter fraud problem that the state’s most influential newspaper, the conservative Dallas Morning News had concluded was not a problem.
Beyond the highly charged areas of abortion and immigration, Perry’s signature boast of forcing the state to absorb tough austerity measures without raising taxes, may have ultimately had the greatest impact on Texas Hispanics. As more than $4 billion in education cuts were made forcing thousands of teachers out of jobs, critics say Hispanics were disproportionately affected.
Even those sympathetic to Perry were put off by some of the governor’s actions. One immigration measure that drew conservative criticism – Perry’s signing into law a measure that offered illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates – brought a different type of criticism among Hispanics.
“That was viewed as nothing but pandering,” Machado said of the reaction by conservative Hispanics.
Speculation abounds about Perry’s next political move. But one day after his departure from the race, Texas again was on the national stage when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Congressional redistricting map that had been drawn up by three federal judges who ruled that the Legislature’s map was unconstitutional. The rejected judicial map was viewed as being more favorable to Hispanics.
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