Will the Real Rick and Kay Please Stand Up

Here we go again. Another political campaign is knee-deep in mud and the people of Texas are left wondering if “none of the above” might be the best choice. Libertarian-minded Debra Medina is seeing her polling numbers rise while Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison do their best to destroy each other.

Texas voters have to be wondering what’s on the up and up. Perry is going after Hutchison on the issue of Hutchison’s pork barrel spending and ties to Washington. Hutchison fights back with charges that Gov. Perry is driven by lobbyists.

It’s true that Gov. Perry has worked hard — especially since the advent of the Tea Party movement on April 15th 2009 — to burnish his conservative credentials. Let there be no doubt that Perry is conservative; but some of his polices have angered the base. Some took offense at what they considered his weak stance on immigration issues. For example, the Governor supports in-state tuition costs for the children of illegal aliens, a position he had difficulty defending during the Belo debate.

Others became disenchanted with his Trans-Texas Corridor plan and other issues related to toll roads, including public-private partnerships and Perry’s veto of eminent domain legislation. The lobbyist charges aimed at Mr. Perry center around the toll roads, and an episode involving a cervical cancer vaccine called Gardasil that would have been required for young girls under a gubernatorial executive order. Hutchison’s team accuses Mr. Perry of being influenced by Mike Toomey, a former Perry chief-of-staff who was lobbying for vaccine-maker Merck.

By choosing the issue of lobbyists as a ram to batter the governor with, Mrs. Hutchison leaves herself open to issues of hypocrisy. According to the Dallas Morning News, at least 23 former Hutchison aides have gone on to lucrative lobbying careers in Washington — and last year, she hired a former lobbyist as a senior advisor in her Washington office.

Meanwhile, a platter of pork sandwiches was delivered to Mrs. Hutchison’s Austin campaign office by the Perry campaign in celebration of her second-place finish as “Porker of the Year” for 2009 as designated by Citizens Against Government Waste. It’s true that Mrs. Hutchison has brought a lot of earmark money back to Texas. It’s also true that pre-Tea Party, politicians considered “bringing home the bacon” to be a mark of honor and often issued news releases to tout it. The question arises: Has Gov. Perry always been against our U.S. Senators bringing federal cash back to Texas?

In fact, is Mr. Perry really all that anti-Washington? It wasn’t the governor who formulated the strategy against Washington politics that he’s using against the Senator; it was a New Hampshire-based political consultant named Dave Carney. No doubt it was tested with polling and focus groups to make sure it would have the desired effect.

So will the real Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison please stand up? Excuse those of us who are trying to decide on a candidate, but we’d like to know a little more about your core values and your vision for Texas. Perhaps toll roads, illegal immigration, lobbyists and federal spending are good places to start. So with all due deference to the political consultants, please tell us what your plans are for these issues.

The biggest issue of all may be the Texas budget. The state is better off than California or New York, but it’s still spending way too much and Obama’s Stimulus money will not always be there. The website is full of facts about how much Texas spends — some of those costs seemingly unsustainable. But who’s talking about that?

How to keep Texas solvent is the 800-pound gorilla and the candidate that puts forth a real plan on this issue is the one that deserves to be governor.