Perry still refusing debate
POSTED: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 9:53am
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 10:29am
SAN ANTONIO -- AP - Gov. Rick Perry, undeterred by the largest Texas newspapers scheduling a gubernatorial debate with or without him, said Monday that he has a duty as governor to confront Bill White over missing tax records that are keeping him from debating the Democratic challenger.
Perry, a Republican, has refused to debate White until he releases his tax returns for the years he was deputy U.S. energy secretary under President Bill Clinton. White has released his returns for the years he was Houston mayor and for 2009.
"As the governor of the state of Texas, and someone who wants to come in and run this state, absolutely I think I have a responsibility to stand up and say, 'Folks, there is something there,'" Perry said, without being specific about what he thought White's tax returns might show.
Perry spoke for the first time since the five largest Texas newspapers and a public television station in Austin announced last week that they would hold an October debate regardless of whether the candidates appeared. White has accepted the invitation.
Perry, who is seeking an unprecedented third full term, has been defiant in his refusal to debate White, and the request from the biggest newspapers in Texas didn't soften his stance.
"They are free to do that," he said.
White's campaign didn't change its message, either.
"Rick Perry doesn't want to debate because he doesn't want to face tough questions about his record," White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said.
The debate is scheduled for Oct. 19, and organizers are working to hold the event at the University of Texas at Austin. The Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, the Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News called for Perry to accept the invitation.
But Perry indicated that he has no such plans unless White releases his tax records from his stint as deputy energy secretary from 1993 to 1995.
Asked whether he should be able to dictate the terms of a debate, Perry said, "I'm just a citizen. And I'm just saying that it is important for the people of this state."
Perry called his refusal to debate "leverage" in compelling White to disclose records before the November election.
"Finding out in January, if he were so fortunate to be the governor, would be a bad, bad time," he said.
Bacon called Perry's refusal a political game.
"If voters review Bill White's record from years back in the '90s, they'll see that Bill White has been a successful businessman and a public servant," she said.
Perry has provided his tax returns dating to at least 1991. Candidates are not required to release their tax returns under state ethics laws, but it has become a standard practice in major statewide campaigns.