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Political Notebook

Perry gets flak from some Tea Partiers

US Representative Michele Bachmann, campaigning in Aiken, S.C., rejected suggestions that migraines would prevent her from waging a rigorous campaign or being commander in chief. US Representative Michele Bachmann, campaigning in Aiken, S.C., rejected suggestions that migraines would prevent her from waging a rigorous campaign or being commander in chief. (Rainier Ehrhardt/The Augusta Chronicle via Associated Press)
July 20, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. - In spite of his thundering speeches against big government, Governor Rick Perry of Texas has a troubled relationship with the Tea Party movement, a rift increasingly obvious as he gets closer to a presidential bid.

Tea Party groups from New Hampshire to Texas are joining to criticize Perry’s record on immigration, public health, and spending, as well as his former affiliation with the Democratic Party.

“It’s real easy to walk into church on Sunday morning and sing from the hymnal,’’ said Debra Medina, a Texas Tea Party activist who challenged Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. “I saw a guy that talked like a Tea Party candidate, but didn’t govern like one. I still don’t think he governs like the conservative he professes to be.’’

Texas conservatives recently shared material on Perry’s record with the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, which dedicated a section of its website to the Texas governor. The coalition offers links to negative media coverage and videos about the man who it says “was Al Gore’s Democrat chairman’’ in 1988. Perry switched to the Republican Party in 1989, around the same time as other conservative Democrats.

The organization also distributed a series of e-mails to supporters, including one warning, “We should be aware there is more to him than meets the eye.’’

The attacks are quietly promoted by other Republican presidential contenders, who view Perry as a growing threat as he inches closer to entering the Republican presidential primary. Many of the candidates are competing for the hearts of Tea Party activists who have generated passion, campaign cash, and armies of volunteers from GOP voters nationwide.

A key Perry strategist dismissed the Tea Party criticism as isolated to a handful of conservative groups in a fragmented movement.

“There’s no candidate running on either side of the aisle that has his record and relationship with Tea Party members,’’ said David Carney. “But the Tea Party is not one monolithic group.’’

Carney concedes that Perry has work to do in early-voting states like New Hampshire.

“Until we get the campaign going, if we have a campaign, and they have an opportunity to talk to the governor, they’re not going to know who he is, and they’re going to be somewhat skeptical,’’ he said.

They are particularly skeptical about Perry’s record on immigration, an issue that resonates with the Granite State’s Tea Party movement.

As governor, Perry signed a law making Texas the first state to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, and he blasted a proposed border fence as idiocy. Texas Tea Party groups sent Perry an open letter this year expressing disappointment over his failure to get a bill passed that would have outlawed “sanctuary cities,’’ municipalities that protect illegal immigrants.

“That’s a pretty big knock against him,’’ said Jerry DeLemus, chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, when notified of some of Perry’s immigration policies.

Texas governors - including Perry and his predecessor, George W. Bush - walk a fine line when it comes to immigration. The state’s powerful business lobby, which is reliably Republican, backs many immigration rights laws, and the state’s population is more than one-third Hispanic. Some landowners had complained about the border fence interfering with ranching.

— Associated Press

Democratic senator wins 1st of nine Wis. recall races MILWAUKEE - A Wisconsin state senator survived a recall election yesterday that gave voters the most direct opportunity yet to react to a Republican-backed law that stripped most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Democratic Senator Dave Hansen defeated Republican recall organizer David VanderLeest with 69 percent of the vote, with 65 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results last night.

Hansen was the first of nine state senators scheduled for recall elections who faced voters amid the fallout from the bitter fight surrounding Republican Governor Scott Walker’s union plan.

If Democrats pick up a net of three seats, they will retake control of the state Senate and gain key momentum in their efforts to recall Walker next year.

The Republicans were targeted for supporting Walker’s collective-bargaining law. The three Democrats are being targeted because they and their Democratic colleagues fled Wisconsin for three weeks to prevent a vote on the measure.

— Associated Press