Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Democrats pound Rick Perry

Bill White greets Democratic delegates (AP photo).
Bill White greets Democratic delegates (AP photo).

Delegates to the Texas Democratic Party’s state convention, which ended Saturday in Corpus Christi, cheered on the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Bill White, and other November hopefuls.

From our perch, we heard a few applause/attack lines that had already been through the PolitiFact Texas Truth-O-Meter.

Secession comment

GOP Gov. Rick Perry was target No. 1 for many speakers, with some -- including White, state Rep. Mark Strama of Austin, state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and U.S. Reps. Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi and Gene Green of Houston -- touching on Perry’s much-discussed yet constitutionally incorrect 2009 suggestion that Texas could secede from the United States.

This reminded us of Perry’s rehash of his ’09 secession comment in an interview given a year later. We found that recap, while incomplete, Mostly True.

Perry’s suburban digs

Perry also received continued tongue lashings from Democrats for his housing arrangement. Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said Friday that “the governor is charging us $10,000 a month to live high on the hog in a luxurious mansion.”

Richie was referring to a house about 11 miles southwest of downtown Austin the state has been renting for Perry and his wife, Anita, since fall 2007. Originally, the couple moved so the Governor’s Mansion could be renovated. A 2008 arson fire then heavily damaged the historic building, lengthening the governor’s stay in the 4,600-square-foot home in the Estates Above Lost Creek subdivision.

Richie’s statement Friday echoed one made by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator who was trying to deny Perry the GOP gubernatorial nomination, in a February radio ad describing Perry as living “in a luxury house that costs taxpayers $10,000 a month."

What we later found: The lease on Perry’s temporary home was initially for one year, with the rent set at $9,900. In November 2008, the monthly rent was lowered to $9,000, with the lease extended through October 2011. We rated Hutchison’s statement Mostly True.

Perry & Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore was invoked at the convention. White said Friday: "Rick Perry showed up at one of these conventions the year that he was the statewide chairman of Al Gore's first presidential race."

We tested a similar claim during primary season, when GOP candidate Debra Medina said to Perry during a debate, "Governor, you were a Democrat, having worked for Al Gore as his campaign manager..."

There's no disputing the governor was a Democrat. Perry won his first election, to the Texas House in 1984, as a Democrat. He won re-election in 1986 and 1988 before switching parties to challenge Democratic Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower in 1990 — a race Perry won in an upset.

And according to news accounts and Perry's campaign, Perry served as Gore's Texas campaign chairman in 1988.

What brought Perry to pitch in for Gore, whose candidacy washed out after he failed to do well outside his native South?

According to news reports at the time, many conservative Texas Democrats put stock in Gore’s campaign, among them former Gov. Dolph Briscoe, who died this week, and then-House Speaker Gib Lewis, who flew to Washington to endorse Gore.

Later, Perry said he found out Gore was far from a real conservative. "Going through that (Gore experience) was part of what started me through the process of changing parties in 1989," Perry said. "I came to my senses."

We found that Medina was close to right about Perry’s Gore connection, though a visitor from another planet might read her statement to mean Perry was improbably Gore's national campaign manager. Instead, he was Gore's Texas chairman.

Minimum-wage jobs

Also at the convention, Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, re-lofted her concern that Texas is the state “with the most minimum-wage jobs.”

We earlier found that statement True. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.5 percent of the state’s hourly workers made the federal minimum, $7.25 since July, or less in 2009. West Virginia was next in that category, with 7.8 percent of its hourly workers making the federal minimum or less.