Rick Perry: The View From Texas
He's been itching for a brawl with President Obama, but can he get black Texans on board?
While the major metropolitan areas in the state have tilted toward Democrats, Texas is still a solidly red state. Our governor-turned-presidential candidate Rick Perry hasn't had to court the African-American vote, since he's won three elections and become Texas' longest-serving governor without it.
Perry hasn't ignored black Texans. He's routinely taken part in the United Negro College Fund's "Governor's Luncheon" and been the commencement speaker at both Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University in recent years. While his remarks usually remain generic, he did point out at Texas Southern last year that African-American enrollment in Texas higher education increased by nearly 20,000 students between 2008 and 2009.
But astute observers could see that he was more than ready to pick a fight with the nation's first black president. For the last couple of years, Gov. Perry has positioned himself as an antagonist of President Barack Obama. Perry has railed against the "stimulus" and sparred with the White House over whether the state was due emergency federal assistance for wildfires this past spring.
And when he greeted the president at the airport as Obama was making a trip to Austin, before the president could say "What's up," the governor handed him a letter asking the federal government to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops along the Texas-Mexico border. While many black Texans have viewed Perry's actions and tone as disrespectful, he's still got his fans.
Texas' Black Republicans Support Perry
Texas has its share of African-American conservatives, and many of them have had the governor's back and even echoed some of his criticism of the president. Michael Williams is in that number. He's a Republican who served as Texas railroad commissioner for more than a decade, up until March of this year.
During that time, he was the highest-ranking African-American elected official in Texas, a state where there are still no Democrats in office who have won a statewide election. Williams is now running for a seat in the U.S. Congress. His Twitter stream reads like that of any Texas Republican.