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Asked About Cruz, Perry Trumpets His Own Experience

Asked about what separates him from potential presidential rival Ted Cruz, former Gov. Rick Perry talked about how executive experience would be a key selling point. Perry touched on several other issues in an interview with the Tribune and The Washington Post.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a video interview in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2015.

WASHINGTON — For any Texans torn between Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as likely presidential candidates, the state’s former governor argued Thursday that executive experience matters. 

In a wide-ranging interview with The Texas Tribune and The Washington Post, Perry discussed international, presidential and Texas politics.

Asked about what separates him from Cruz, Perry never mentioned his potential rival by name. Instead, he downplayed Senate experience and alluded to the fact that Cruz’s tenure in office is the same as then-Sen. Barack Obama's when he ran for president in 2008.  

“It’s one of the selling points, if you will, to the American people as they decide who’s going to follow Barack Obama,” he said. “I think they’re going to make a rather radical shift, away from a young, untested United States senator whose policies have really failed.”

Perry, Cruz and around a dozen other Republicans are in the early stages of building expected campaigns for the Republican nomination. Texas will probably be a battleground for donors, political operative talent and delegates. 

Other Republican candidates with Texas roots like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are not ceding the state to the former governor. But the competition could be potentially fierce with Perry's fellow Texas resident, Cruz.

“They’re going to look for somebody that’s got the executive experience,” Perry said of possible supporters. “And my feel, my advice and my instinct is that they’re going to look for someone who has a substantial track record, someone who’s been tested and someone who has the results of what they put into place.”  

But that message could be lost amid his ongoing legal problems stemming from his veto of funding for the state's public integrity unit.

GOP operatives have speculated that Perry’s indictment and the subsequent negative publicity put donors at risk. His camp sought to undercut that argument by unveiling 80 donors on Wednesday.

“I can’t think of maybe one or two donors in this whole process that’s even asked about it,” Perry said Thursday. “Most people see it for what it is — it’s a political prosecution.”

He said his legal team is confident the case will be thrown out and he will survive politically.

“What you can’t do at the ballot box, let’s try and do at the courthouse,” he said. “They couldn’t defeat me in 14 years as governor, so 'Let’s try to go and besmirch him and at least try and keep him from being the president.'”

Now out of office, Perry is fully concentrated on that potential campaign.

He now lives in a 1,400 square-foot condominium with his wife, former Texas first lady Anita Perry – a contrast to the Governor’s Mansion that he often jokes about. They are building a home east of Austin.

And it's from there, as a state government outsider for the first time in 30 years, that he's watched some of the recent controversies at the state Capitol. 

He said he was not impressed with state Rep. Molly White’s recent Facebook post ordering her staff to ask Muslim representatives visiting her office "to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws."

“It’s every legislator's right to say what they want to say,” he said of the Belton Republican's Facebook comments. “I certainly wouldn’t have.”

“I think the message needs to be sent and has historically been sent that we are a very diverse state,” he said. “We have a lot of different people, different religions, different cultures that call Texas home. We want them to feel comfortable there.” 

He also commented on the other controversy consuming debate in Austin: the open carrying of handguns.

Perry said he was “not necessarily all that fond of this open carry concept,” adding that those who carry guns ought to be “appropriately backgrounded, appropriately vetted, appropriately trained.”

“We license people to drive on our highways,” he said. “We give them that privilege. The same is true with our concealed handguns.”

But also, he said he prefers concealed handguns for “a more practical reason.”

“I don’t want the bad guys to know if I’m carrying," he said. "I don’t want to be the first person shot if something’s going down.”

His successor, Gov. Greg Abbottrecently proposed the end of Perry’s Emerging Technology Fund and diverting some of that money into another program Perry backed, the Texas Enterprise Fund.  

Both funds have come under scrutiny and criticism. Perry insisted the changes do not bother him. 

“I’m not the governor anymore,” he said. “There’s never been a program that has been put in place from my perspective, whether it’s my program or whether it was another governor’s program, that ought to be in place forever.”

“They’ll either stand or fall on their own, and I hope there’s a good thoughtful conversation, and if the governor decides he doesn’t want to have that tool in his toolbox, that’s his call.”

Perry also discussed several national issues. Among them:

  • ISIS: Perry, a former Air Force pilot, was visibly angry about ISIS's immolation of a Jordanian fighter pilot. Asked if Americans and their allies should kill every member of ISIS, he answered: "That would be my preference." 
  • Vaccines: Perry came out in strong support of parents getting their children vaccinated. 

Read more about the interview from The Washington Post. 

Robert Costa of The Washington Post contributed to this report. 

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Politics 2016 elections Rick Perry