The Big Conversation:
Four years later, Gov. Rick Perry's failed HPV vaccine mandate — one of the most controversial moves of his career — has roared back to life.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann revived the issue at Monday night's Republican debate when she slammed Perry for his 2007 executive order requiring all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer.
Bachmann called it "flat out wrong" to require "innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order," and then accused Perry of issuing the mandate as a favor for a former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, who at the time lobbied for Merck, the company that manufactured the vaccine. (The Texas Legislature later overwhelmingly overturned Perry's mandate.)
Several other Republicans on stage piled on. Even Sarah Palin, who campaigned for Perry in 2010, joined the chorus in a post-debate interview on Fox News.
And on Tuesday, Bachmann, in an appearance on the Today show, went on to challenge the safety of the vaccine, saying that "it can have very dangerous side effects."
Though Perry last month preemptively tried to walk back the 2007 decree, the vaccine controversy, as Politico and The New York Times note, threatens to scare key Republican constituencies away from Perry, including social conservatives, concerned about parental rights and suspicious of the vaccine on sex-education grounds, and small-government conservatives, worried about executive overreach.
“It’s the perfect storm of an issue,” Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, tells the Times.
But the issue took on another dimension Tuesday after the Tribune's Ryan Murphy reported that Perry, during the debate, low-balled the amount of campaign money he has received from Merck. Perry said $5,000 (and "if you are saying I can be bought for $5,000, I am offended,” he told Bachmann), but over the past 10 years, Merck has, in fact, given Perry $29,500.
On Tuesday, in keeping with the theme of the day, Politico also unearthed a Kay Bailey Hutchison attack ad against Perry that never aired during their 2010 gubernatorial primary fight.
- As the Trib's Emily Ramshaw reports, Gov. Rick Perry today heads to Virginia, where he'll try to reconnect with social conservatives at Liberty University, the largest evangelical university in the country. He'll also meet with Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose name has been tossed around as a potential vice presidential contender.
- Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday endorsed Rick Perry for president, marking the second nod Perry has received from a sitting governor. (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his support for Perry on Monday.) Sandoval's endorsement may prove particularly potent, given that Nevada, which holds its caucuses early in the year, could play a crucial role in the Republican primary.
- The Austin American-Statesman reports today that much of the $60,000 salary first lady Anita Perry's earns working for the nonprofit Texas Association Against Sexual Assault comes from individuals or companies that have ties to the governor or the Legislature or that do business with the state.
- A judge has halted a conservative Christian group's petition drive to recall El Paso Mayor John Cook and two city representatives for their votes in support of extending health benefits to partners of gay and unmarried city employees, the El Paso Times reports. Cook alleges that preachers have collected signatures in churches — a violation of election code.
"There's only one path here, which is to support vaccination." — Dr. Ronald DePinho, the new president of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, on the HPV vaccine
- Lucky and Good: Rick Perry’s Lone Star Rise to Power, Time
- Judge Sparks' 'cute' orders criticized by appellate judge, Austin American-Statesman
- Mexico Mandates HPV Vaccine; States Consider It, The Texas Tribune