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Perry soft on illegals, say tea partyers
Texas critics alert N.H. counterparts
Question of the Day
CONCORD, N.H. — In spite of his thundering speeches against big government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a troubled relationship with the tea party, a rift increasingly obvious as he gets closer to a presidential bid.
“It’s real easy to walk into church on Sunday morning and sing from the hymnal. I saw a guy that talked like a tea party candidate but didn’t govern like one,” said Debra Medina, a Texas tea party activist who challenged Mr. Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. “I still don’t think he governs like the conservative he professes to be.”
Texas conservatives recently shared material on Mr. Perry’s record with the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, which dedicated a section of its website to the Texas governor. The coalition offers links to negative media coverage and videos about the man who it says “was Al Gore’s Democrat chairman” in 1988. Mr. Perry switched to the Republican Party in 1989, around the same time as other conservative Democrats.
The organization also distributed a series of emails to supporters, including one obtained by the Associated Press warning, “We should be aware there is more to him than meets the eye.”
A key Perry strategist dismissed the tea party criticism as isolated to a handful of conservative groups in a fragmented movement.
“We have reached out to some members of the tea party leadership. But until we get the campaign going, if we have a campaign, and they have an opportunity to talk to the governor, they’re not going to know who he is and they’re going to be somewhat skeptical,” he said.
They’re particularly skeptical about Mr. Perry’s record on immigration, an issue that resonates with the Granite State’s tea party movement.
As governor, Mr. Perry signed a law making Texas the first state to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, and he blasted a proposed border fence as “idiocy.” Texas tea party groups sent Mr. Perry an open letter this year expressing disappointment over his failure to get a bill passed that would have outlawed “sanctuary cities,” municipalities that protect illegal immigrants.
Mr. Perry also said that Arizona’s immigration law “would not be the right direction for Texas,” although he would later support a friend-of-the-court brief defending Arizona’s right to pass its own laws in accordance with the Constitution’s 10th Amendment.
“That’s a pretty big knock against him,” said Jerry DeLemus, chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, when notified of some of Mr. Perry’s immigration policies.
Still, Mr. Perry enjoys substantial support from some tea party groups, who say his conservative credentials are strong, even if not perfect.
“I don’t think there’s a purity test for who is tea party and who isn’t tea party,” said Ryan Hecker, a member of the Houston Tea Party Society and organizer of the group Contract from America. “At times, some tea party people would have liked him to be more conservative. But, generally speaking, he has an excellent record, a far better record than other candidates in the race.”
By Michael P. Orsi
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