Texas Gov. Rick Perry is looking to retain his seat for an unprecedented third term in 2010. He faces a challenge in former Houston Mayor Bill White, however, as his lead over the Democratic challenger has eroded some in recent polls. About 6 percent of Texas voters still consider themselves to be undecided, and winning them over has a chance to tip the balance in favor of either candidate.
Candidates for Governor of Texas (four-year term)
Candidate: Rick Perry
Political experience: Perry was a member of the Texas state house, representing the 64th district from 1985 to 1991. He was the Texas Agriculture Minister from 1991 to 1998. In 1999, he became the lieutenant governor, retaining that seat until December 2000, when he took office as governor following George W. Bush. He was re-elected in 2002 and 2006.
Professional experience: Perry is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 1977 as a captain. He was a cotton farmer until beginning his career in politics.
Key issues: According to his website, Perry places job creation and educational reform high on his list of priorities, along with border security and a reduction in government spending. He instituted wage and performance-pay increases for the state’s teachers and wants to continue increases in student and teacher accountability. His job-creation policies are focused around tax cuts for businesses and property owners as well as increased support for the Texas Enterprise Fund. He believes that border security relies upon more personnel, more equipment and targeted operations to reduce illegal immigration and border crime.
Endorsements: Perry is endorsed by the Exotic Wildlife Association, the Independent Bankers Association, the Associated General Contractors of America and the NRA and Texas State Rifle Association, among others.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Rasmussen Reports shows Perry with a small lead in this race, but it has dwindled some recently, leading to a downgrade from “solid Republican” to “leaning Republican.” Undecided voters still range around 6 percent, however, so if Perry can convince some of them to come his direction, he’ll shore up his lead and keep his seat.
Candidate: Bill White
Political experience: White was the U.S. deputy secretary of energy from 1993 to 1995. He was chairman of the Texas Democratic Party from 1995 to 1998. He was elected mayor of Houston in 2004, serving until January.
Professional experience: An attorney, White practiced business litigation and anti-trust law until 1993, when he was appointed to the Department of Energy by President Clinton. He was president and CEO of Wedge Group from 1997 to 2004.
Key issues: According to his website, White is focused on job creation through investment in infrastructure and reformation of government agencies to include more local oversight. He wants to implement educational reforms concentrated on creating a more globally competitive workforce, with a focus on cutting the drop-out rate, expanded pre-k education and more highly focused career and technical training. White wants to reform border security initiatives by hiring 1,250 new law enforcement officials, fostering community partnerships and implementing the Secure Communities Program.
Endorsements: White is endorsed by the Texas League of Conservation Voters, Texas State Teachers Association and many of the state’s newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle.
Chances of unseating Rick Perry: White still has an uphill struggle to win this race, but the most recent polls show him gaining a little bit of ground. Rasmussen Reports shows him trailing 42 percent to Perry’s 48 percent, but if White can grab some more of Perry’s supporters and win over some of the 6 percent of Texas voters who still list themselves as undecided, he has a chance.
Key Differences between Bill White and Governor Rick Perry
Jobs: Perry’s job-creation strategies are centered on making Texas more attractive to new and existing businesses through property and other business-related tax cuts. White’s job creation plan is focused on re-investment and reform in infrastructure, as well as technical- and career-training initiatives.
Education: White wants to see more funding for pre-kindergarten programs and a focus on decreasing high-school drop-out rates and the cost of college programs. He also says he wants to re-invest in better teacher-training initiatives. Perry wants to institute a public/private venture between schools and communities, and to raise teacher and student performance standards and incentives.
Border security: Perry wants to continue state-funded operations on strategic areas to reduce overall crime in border cities. He wants the Department of Homeland Security to fund an extra 1,000 members of the National Guard to be posted at the border; he would continue anti-gang initiatives as it relates to border security. White wants to use additional state and local law enforcement officials instead — with the use of federal funding. He also wants to revamp the Department of Public Safety and partner with local communities to fulfill their individual security needs.
Health care: White wants to expand enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, strengthen community health centers to increase preventative care and institute three-share programs that combine employee, employer and public/private partnership resources to reduce the overall cost of health care. Perry wants to reduce health care costs by cutting back on medical liability claims and ferreting out fraud in government health programs. He wants to increase health care access to underserved and rural areas by instituting a student-loan forgiveness program for physicians who choose to practice in those areas.
2006 results: Perry beat Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman 39.03 percent to 29.79 percent, 18.13 percent and 12.43 percent, respectively.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 47.8 percent of the state is white, 11.3 percent black, 35.9 percent Hispanic, 3.3 percent Asian and 0.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.