Farmers and ranchers flocked to the Capitol on Tuesday with their sights set on stopping Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor, a huge highway project that rural landowners say will gobble up their property.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn – one of Mr. Perry's potential Republican opponents in 2006 – joined the angry rally and called the governor's associates "land-grabbing highway henchmen."
"Governor Perry and his Department of Transportation want to cram toll roads down Texans' throats. He calls it Trans-Texas Corridor. We call it Trans-Texas Catastrophe," she said.
A spokesman for Mr. Perry watched the rally and chastised Mrs. Strayhorn for criticizing toll roads. He cited records showing her support for them in the past and said those who criticize should offer their own solutions.
"Would they raise the gas tax by one dollar? ... Would they expand I-35 through our cities, which is some of the most expensive real estate in the state? Or would they do nothing and continue to allow congestion to increase?" asked the spokesman, Robert Black.
Republican and Democratic legislators addressed the rally, urging that limits be placed on the corridor plan.
"The government is out of control. They're trying to take our property rights away from us," said Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville.
Some in the crowd identified themselves as conservative Republicans and said this was the first political rally they'd ever attended.
"I already wrote a note to his e-mail and said he needs to be run out of town on a rail. But that's too good for him," said Betty Meischen of Austin County.
Ms. Meischen said one proposed corridor road would divide the 160-acre farm that has been in her family for generations.
Cattle rancher Leroy Bacak of El Campo and his wife, Laverne, said they have two pieces of property totaling 250 acres. One corridor proposal could place a major highway between the two, preventing the movement of ranch equipment back and forth, Mr. Bacak said.