GOP rivals agree states need freedom to craft policy

Capital punishment, economy key issues

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Three potential rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination said Sunday the nation could learn from its GOP governors.

Govs. Mike Pence of Indiana, Rick Perry of Texas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin discussed issues ranging from the death penalty to marijuana legalization to the economy in a series of joint and separate television appearances during a break from the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C.


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They agreed that states need the freedom and flexibility to innovate and respond to their unique constituencies without federal interference.

“I think what you see in high relief here is a part of the American experiment that explains a lot of the prosperity and success our nation has had for more than two centuries, and that is to allow states to have the freedom and flexibility to craft policies,” Mr. Pence said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans haven’t held the White House since President George W. Bush left office in 2008, but the party has excelled in capturing governor’s seats. Republicans now hold 29 of the nation’s governorships, while Democrats have 21.

That’s a result of the Republican governors’ ability to promote job growth, create a pro-business climate, and even lure outside companies to their state, said Mr. Walker on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Look at the successful governors across America that are Republicans in states like mine, where private-sector job growth is the best from April through December of last year that it’s been since 1994, or a place like Florida, where Rick Scott brought the unemployment rate down five percent,” said Mr. Walker. “Rick Snyder did about the same thing in Michigan. Look at Susana Martinez and Nikki Haley and other governors like that,” said Mr. Walker. “They are focused on economic and fiscal issues just like I am and that’s why we’re doing well across the country.”

Republicans have been particular adept at attracting businesses that manufacture guns and firearms accessories, thanks to both their economic and Second Amendment stances, said Mr. Perry on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“You think about the Northeast — that was the Silicon Valley, if you will, of gun manufacturing, and you’re seeing those manufacturers leaving the Northeast because of the taxation, the regulations, and just the attitude toward manufacturers of weapons,” said Mr. Perry.

He pointed out that New York-based Remington is building a plant in Alabama, while Maryland’s Beretta USA plans to erect a research facility in Tennessee. Meanwhile, Magpul Industries has announced it will move its corporate office from Colorado to Texas.

“You’re seeing a shift of these manufacturers out of states that don’t want them there,” said Mr. Perry. “And I think that is an appropriate move and an appropriate conversation.”

Mr. Perry, who made an unsuccessful bid for the 2014 GOP presidential nomination, said he wouldn’t rule out running again in 2016, while Mr. Pence declined to elaborate on his plans, saying he was focused on Indiana.

None of the Republicans are big fans of legalizing recreational marijuana, as Colorado and Washington have done, but they’re not inflexible on the subject of decriminalization.

The Texas governor said his state’s use of drug courts and eliminating the prison option for low-level drug offenders has helped reduce the prison population to 96 percent capacity. That’s significantly lower than that of other big states like California, which is now exceeding its capacity, he said.

“The idea that a kid has one marijuana cigarette and you send him to prison where they can learn to really be a hardened criminal is not thoughtful public policy,” said Mr. Perry. “Use these drug courts, put intervention programs into place, shock probation, and keep those young people on a track to be productive citizens rather than ending up in our prisons.”

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