White blasts Perry land deal
Democrat questions governor’s honesty at sheriffs convention
FORT WORTH — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White on Monday continued his streak of hammering GOP Gov. Rick Perry publicly, this time questioning whether the governor acted with integrity during a land deal several years ago in Horseshoe Bay.
Addressing a Sheriffs’ Association of Texas conference, White asked law-enforcement officials how long they thought it would take for them to be under investigation if they made a large sum of money buying a piece of land for less than market price and selling it for more.
“Ask yourself that question,” White told a ballroom full of attendees of the convention, which attracted more than 1,500 cowboy-hatted sheriffs and other law-enforcement officials.
White was referring to a Dallas Morning News report Sunday that said evidence showed “Perry’s investment was enhanced by a series of professional courtesies and personal favors.” The newspaper hired an appraiser who concluded that the resort property was worth more than Perry paid when he bought it from his friend state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, in 2001, and less than Perry sold it for in 2007 — which the story said might have helped the governor earn an extra $500,000.
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White has also been attacking Perry for living in a taxpayer-funded rental home and for what he called a light state work schedule.
Perry defended the land deal during a news conference Monday that focused on his law-enforcement efforts. He pointed out that appraisals frequently vary.
“We did everything open and honest, at arm’s length,” Perry told reporters before giving a speech to the sheriffs. “I think just about anybody that invested in Central Texas property between 2000 and 2007 probably showed a profit.”
Perry then struck back at White, telling reporters that it was “arrogant” of White to call on Perry to release more information about the land deal when White hasn’t released his income tax returns from his time as deputy U.S. secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.
“He refuses to let the people of the state of Texas see how he was making money when he was supposedly working for the people of this country,” Perry said.
Perry’s speech to the law-enforcement officials didn’t focus on White at all. Instead, Perry highlighted legislation he has vetoed that he said would have limited the authority of law-enforcement officers. For example, Senate Bill 730, from 2001, would have limited officers’ discretion in making arrests for traffic violations, he said.
“From time to time, there’s some folks in the Legislature that kind of get a little lost,” Perry said.
And he said that the U.S.Mexico border continues to present the greatest challenge to protecting Texans.
“Drug lords in Mexico are playing for keeps,” Perry said. “Their proximity to Texas is a growing threat.”
Perry, who frequently bashes Washington, criticized the federal government’s record on securing the border. He said that even his “Aggie math” tells him it’s not fair that Texas, which has 64 percent of the border, is getting just 20 percent of the 1,200 National Guard troops President Barack Obama is sending to the southern border.
The governor said he has invited Obama — who will be in Texas in August — to meet with him to discuss how Border Patrol officers in the Lone Star State are “outgunned and ‘We did everything open and honest, at arm’s length,’ Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Monday of his Horseshoe Bay land deal. Shifting focus later that day, Perry told a state sheriffs convention that he’s seeking a bigger commitment from President Barack Obama on border security. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White asked attendees at the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas conference to ponder what would happen to them if they made the sort of real estate deal that Rick Perry did in Horseshoe Bay. A report estimated that Perry made $500,000 on the transaction. outmanned.”
“I’d ask him to take his commitment and move it up a few notches so that our border can truly, thoroughly be secure,” Perry said.
White told reporters that in Perry’s 9½ years as governor, he “has not been effective in delivering what we need to secure the border.”
He said that he would “be a workhorse, and not a show horse.”
And he said he wants a task force to address mental health issues in jails and prisons, which he said too often become the local mental health care providers.
Sheriffs Oscar Carrillo of Culberson County and Arvin West of Hudspeth County — whose adjacent West Texas counties are just east of El Paso — said it’s Perry’s commitment to the border that has secured their support of his campaign. Though the sheriffs association isn’t endorsing a gubernatorial candidate, a number of individual sheriffs have endorsed one or the other.
“We don’t know Bill White,” said Carrillo, one of eight sheriffs, all Democrats, backing Perry. “We know Rick Perry. We know he’s got our backs.”
But Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who served on Houston’s City Council when White was mayor, sang the Democrat’s praises in introducing him to the sheriffs. Garcia is one of about 20 sheriffs — including Greg Hamilton of Travis County, Amadeo Ortiz of Bexar County, Richard Wiles of El Paso County and Lupe Valdez of Dallas County — who have endorsed White, according to the White campaign.
Garcia said he saw White “act almost like a sheriff ” when hurricanes Katrina and Rita headed toward the Gulf Coast in 2005.
In this crowd, there may be no higher praise.