THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Gov. Rick Perry and Bill White, together at last, faced a tough crowd Thursday.
At their first appearance at the same venue, Perry and White courted attendees of the Texas Farm Bureau's 2010 Presidents' Conference in San Marcos yesterday. The two, who spoke separately and did not cross paths, painted themselves as strong supporters of rural Texas and agriculture.
But both were treading on unfriendly territory: The 420,000-member coalition has never endorsed a Democrat for governor, and Perry burned a bridge with the group in 2007 when he vetoed a Farm Bureau-backed eminent domain bill.
Perry largely sidestepped the issue and instead focused his address on the failures of Washington and the legacy of Texas farming — but not without a display of nerves. "'I want to thank you for inviting me to meet to discuss the issues that are important to Texas farm families,' Perry said, heaving an audible sigh before launching into his anti-Washington rhetoric," the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe writes. "Those good, hardworking farmers out there, they and their families know in my heart that I grew up in the farm belt of this state," said Perry, who served as agriculture commissioner for eight years.
White, seeing an opening, hit Perry on his veto and his support for the Trans-Texas Corridor, a network of tollroads that the Farm Bureau has opposed. "Maybe he thinks that every he time he says the words President Obama and what he does you will forget what he did when he betrayed the Farm Bureau and vetoed that eminent domain bill," said White, who also took aim at Perry spokesman Mark Miner, who dismissed the farm group after it endorsed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry's Republican primary rival. (Watch Perry speaking with reporters afterward about the veto here.)
Some in attendance appeared responsive to White, the Chronicle notes, but others still saw Perry as the "lesser of two evils," as one attendee said. The candidates will wait for the group's endorsement, which it will issue within the next couple of months. Bureau spokesman Gene Hall told the Chronicle that the group, for the first time in its history, could stay neutral in the race.
- NPR has a report on one of political journalim's hottest commodities: the Truth-O-Meter, PolitiFact's rising star. "Our whole point is to open people's eyes to what's happening out there. If that involves saying someone's told a half-truth or false statement, so be it," says the Austin American-Statesman's Gardner Selby, who leads the PolitiFact Texas desk.
- Supporters of legalized gambling got facetime at the Capitol on Thursday, but their arguments might be bunk, said the state's top revenue estimator.
- The Senate Criminal Justice Committee indicated Thursday that it could be looking to overhaul state DWI laws.
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