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The Brief: Aug. 12, 2010

In this cage match of a governor's race, little, it turns out, is sacred.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Gov. Rick Perry accused Democratic opponent Bill White on Wednesday of making "racially motivated" statements on a campaign visit to Dallas on Tuesday. Perry said White made an insensitive play at pandering to a predominantly black audience, in front of whom White said that the state needs "a governor who's a servant, as opposed to Rick Perry, who wants to be treated as master."

Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson called on White to apologize, and in a statement, Republican Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who is black, called White's remarks, which he said invoked images of slavery, "ignorant" and "offensive."

White's camp sharply rejected the notion that the language in question alluded to slavery, noting that the candidate has used such terminology, which staffers say is Scripture-based, throughout the campaign in numerous addresses. "If the Perry campaign had used Google, they could see that Bill White often talks about a servant leader and someone who's only in it for himself," said White spokeswoman Katy Bacon.

A number of attendees of the Dallas event defended White, saying they heard no racial undertones in the candidate's speech, and one Democratic state representative, Garnet Coleman of Houston, threw accusations of race-baiting back at Perry. "The governor needs to stop trying to use African-Americans as a wedge for his divisive and partisan political campaign," Coleman said in a statement. "We don't have to parse the governor's words to find animosity towards communities of color, a simple look at his actions during his 25 years in office makes clear his position."

The talk of race largely overshadowed a plan White announced Wednesday to increase transparency in state government. But the former Houston mayor's call for ethics reform — including his proposed overhaul of the appointments process, a subject on which he has battered Perry — comes at an awkward time for White, whom the Tribune's Matt Stiles reports today has accepted $2 million in donations from individuals he has appointed over the years.

The ethics back-and-forth is sure to continue throughout the day, as the candidates both gear up for appearances in Austin at the Texas Association of Broadcasters annual convention. Perry will speak at 7:45 a.m., followed by White at 8:25 a.m.

CULLED:

  • The Tribune's Brandi Grissom has a report on the Dallas County Jail, which, on Wednesday, passed a state standards test for the first time since 2004. Officials on the scene held their breath (literally) as a fickle smoke evacuation system finally clinched compliance for the facility.
  • The state of Texas officially filed suit against Washington on Wednesday to stop the Obama administration's offshore drilling ban.

"I'm done. I'm never running again for anything." — Former Dallas mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to The Dallas Morning News

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