There was a candidates’ forum to discuss the Trans Texas Corridor yesterday in Central Texas. Three gubernatorial wannabees were there. You’ll never guess which one wasn’t.
At 6:05 p.m. Friday, almost an hour before the start of the Blackland Coalition’s gubernatorial candidate forum on the Trans-Texas Corridor, the asphalt outside of the Seaton Star Hall east of Temple was already half full of pickups and cars. Outside, representatives of writer and musician Kinky Friedman and Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn were gathering petition signatures in their efforts to make the November ballot as independents and unseat Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Inside, many of the 750 chairs were filled already. Folks in gimme caps, black Stetson hats and jeans were munching on sausage wraps and, when she happened by, listening to Strayhorn make her pitch one-on-one. Friedman and Democratic candidate Chris Bell showed up later in time to speak to the crowd, making it the three challengers’ first joint appearance of the campaign.
By 7 p.m., the room was full, and the response to the challengers during the next two hours was full-throated, giving at least some indications that Perry has genuine political work ahead.
His plan for a network of cross-state toll roads and rail lines has many rural Texans in an independent frame of mind.
“This area went Republican” in the mid-1990s, said Inez Cobb, a board member of the year-old coalition formed in opposition to the corridor plan. “But they better watch their step or it might not be for long.”
[Perry spokesman Robert] Black said the corridor plan, despite demonstrations of widespread rural discontent such as Friday night’s, won’t hurt Perry in November.
“The governor believes that the vast majority of Texans, including rural Texans, understand that with a population expected to double in the next 40 years, the current Texas infrastructure can’t handle that increase,” Black said. “Something has to happen.”
We’ll see about that. As I noted before, I think that Strayhorn’s anti-toll road supporters are more Republican than not – for sure, I got a ton of email from this crowd before the primaries exhorting votes for a number of candidates in various GOP primaries. I think this is a sizable chunk of her base.
But maybe Rick Perry isn’t worried about that. He’ll still be happy to point out that as with many other issues, Strayhorn used to be on the same team as he on the subject of toll roads.
Strayhorn, whose intention to supplant Perry in the Governor’s Mansion has been well known for a couple of years, has periodically hammered Perry over his preference for toll roads as a solution to the Texas highway crunch.
She was quoted in January saying, “This voice is dead set against toll roads.”
But the Perry campaign says that wasn’t always the case, noting news releases and reports out of her office in 2000 and 2001 touting toll roads as the way to get roads built quickly and boost the state’s economy.
That was, of course, before the Legislature overhauled transportation law and transformed toll roads from a concept into a reality.
Chris Bell is also hitting her on this; he has excerpts from some of the aforementioned press releases. I’ve checked around some of the anti-toll road blogs but haven’t seen any response to this yet. Sal? Any comment?
Thanks to South Texas Chisme for the link.