Will a Perry-White debate EVER happen?

September 9, 2010 7:05:14 PM PDT
For months, former Houston Mayor Bill White and Gov. Rick Perry have said a lot about each other, but they haven't said anything to each other. For the first time in decades, the candidates for governor haven't scheduled a debate. One Democratic leaning group called Perry a coward for refusing to debate.

In recent weeks, the debate has been about whether there will be a gubernatorial debate, about White's taxes and the six debates White has agreed to and Perry's refusals to any. But we wanted to know: What answers are you missing out on?

Every person who's run for Texas governor in the last 20 years has debated his or her opponent. These guys might break the streak.

But just imagine if we could get them to a debate. There's all sorts of stuff Eyewitness News political consultant Dr. Richard Murray would love to ask the candidates, including: How are we going to balance our state budget in the next two as required by our constitution? Or, what's your position on the Arizona tough law passed a few months ago?

He'd ask Perry: Every serious governor in the past 40 years has met with editorial boards prior to elections, so why don't you do it and discuss what you plan to do as governor?

And he'd ask White: Since you left office, the city finances in Houston seemed to have deteriorated pretty badly, so don't you think you bear some responsibility?

They're great questions with no answers.

"If as seen in the past few days, the race tightens up, then the governor will have to reconsider his strategy of avoiding debates because that doesn't look too good to voters who are still on the fence," Murray said. If White won't release tax returns from his time as deputy energy secretary in the mid 90s, Perry just won't debate.

The governor insists the mayor is hiding something.

But White has released a great deal about his finances, including all his taxes from his time as mayor and as a candidate now. His campaign also released 150 pages of federal documents about how he made money as deputy energy secretary, but they don't include how much -- or how little -- he paid in taxes back then.

It's hard to tell if he is hiding anything.

"Anytime you have an investor who's also a politician who has a wide range of investments, people want to know whether they can use their political office to influence the performance of those investments," Martin said.

White says at some point you just have to draw a line and say enough is enough. But without a debate, it's the Texas voters who are left waiting for answers.

"The public is the loser because the new governor, whoever it is, is going to have to make some tough calls, and we're getting no idea what those calls are going to be," Murray said.

Until White releases his taxes or Perry agrees to debate, the podiums will remain empty, and waiting.

Perry's set a deadline for next Wednesday. If White doesn't release taxes by then, Perry says he won't debate. White's camp says there's no plan to release any more information.

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