The Brief: Top Texas News for Aug. 5, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry, speaking to the Texas Federation of Republican Women
Gov. Rick Perry, speaking to the Texas Federation of Republican Women

The Big Conversation:

Tomorrow's one of the biggest days yet of Rick Perry's career. But will the governor even show up?

Eric Bearse, a spokesman for The Response, the Perry-sponsored prayer and fasting rally scheduled for Saturday at Houston's Reliant Stadium, says yes. "He will offer some words and some scripture and will lead the assembly in prayer," Bearse told the Tribune's Jay Root.

But it's still unclear exactly how involved Perry — who could be days away from announcing his run for the presidency — will be in the daylong event, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for some of its sponsors' controversial statements. Reports indicated last week that the governor hadn't decided whether he would speak publicly.

This week, attention turned to turnout after Sam Brownback of Kansas, the only governor who had accepted an invitation to the event — Perry had invited all 49 — began waffling on his attendance. Organizers had also reportedly received only 8,000 RSVPs, which would amount to only a fraction of Reliant Stadium's 70,000-plus seats.

But organizers say the attention — including an unsuccessful lawsuit filed to block Perry's participation — has only spurred interest in the event. “A movement is stirring among men and women of faith who are committed to praying for our nation,” Bearse said. “Even the lawsuit filed by atheist opponents has only served to increase our attendance.”

How the event will affect a likely Perry presidential bid remains unclear, though it may depend on who says or does what — and to what extent Perry shows his face.

Bryan J. Fischer of the American Family Association, the controversial Christian group sponsoring the event, has said he'll attend. Fischer has famously said that gays and lesbians caused the Holocaust.

If nothing else, the event clears the way for Perry, who has called the event apolitical, to announce his intentions for the presidency. Expect word from the governor, reports have indicated, before Labor Day.

Culled:

  • After revelations surfaced Wednesday that Gov. Rick Perry underwent controversial adult stem cell therapy on July 1, the Trib's Emily Ramshaw reported Thursday that Perry; state Rep. Rick Hardcastle, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and intends to undergo the therapy; and the doctor who performed Perry's procedure have worked toward commercializing the practice in Texas. During the legislative session, lawmakers passed a health care bill that included an amendment — added by Hardcastle, with the input of Perry's office — authorizing the creation of a state adult stem cell bank.
  • What happens to Karl Rove if Gov. Rick Perry wins the Republican presidential nomination? As Politico notes today, a Perry win could expose the longtime rift between the governor and Rove, the Republican Party's most famous political operative, who's said to be leaning toward former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Dave Carney, Perry's top political consultant, has called the rift overblown, but one donor predicts that a Perry nomination might scare donors — pressured by Perry — away from Rove, the force behind a number of influential (and flush) conservative outside groups.
  • Anita Perry may have been the one who encouraged her husband to step out of his "comfort zone" and run for president, but as the Trib's Morgan Smith reports, the first lady — a "quiet, strong, feminine force,” one friend calls her — has stayed largely out of the spotlight during the governor's decade in office.
  • A San Angelo jury on Thursday convicted polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of sexually assaulting two underage brides. The trial, which began last week, soon devolved into something of a courtroom circus, with Jeffs firing his lawyer and deciding to represent himself as proceedings began and later threatening the courtroom with a biblical scourge. Jeffs' sentencing phase begins today.

"If some state decides to do something like pass a health care plan that, you know, is kind of like this Obama thing and it's a failure, then we kind of go, 'Oh, we don't want to do that.'" — Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with CBN News

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