Former Houston mayor hits campaign trail

January 5, 2010 12:02:21 PM PST
One of an incumbent's advantages was on full display in south Texas Tuesday where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White and Governor Rick Perry made appearances. White, Houston's former mayor, traveled the Rio Grande Valley making promises about what he would do to help the area if elected -- a veteran's hospital, an interstate.

Meanwhile, Perry was scheduled to announce millions of dollars in state funding to attract technology jobs at the University of Texas-Pan American Tuesday afternoon.

Some traveling with the White campaign called it more than coincidence.

"He's playing politics, knowing Bill White is coming down here," said state Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, who was traveling with the campaign.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Brownsville Democrat, said that in addition to Perry's ability to spread state money around during a campaign year, he has made hundreds of political appointments, including many in the reliably Democratic Rio Grande Valley.

"You (challengers) have to work twice as hard as the incumbent," Lucio said. "You have to convince people a change will be better."

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry's campaign, said that the governor's event Tuesday was an official appearance not a campaign event. "What's the coincidence?" he asked. "We really don't pay attention to Bill White."

Perry's first hurdle is a bruising battle with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the March 2 Republican primary. White also has opponents for the Democratic nomination, including wealthy Houston businessman Farouk Shami, but the attention Tuesday was on Perry.

White started a day of south Texas campaign events with a breakfast in McAllen hosted by U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa.

He criticized Perry's record on education, proposing initiatives to address Texas' high dropout rates, including sending people door-to-door to speak with dropouts and their families.

"Shouldn't we be treating it as an emergency when someone doesn't go back to high school?" White said, to a crowd of about 70, dominated by local elected officials.

Over steaming bowls of menudo and corn tortillas, Rogelio and Rosemary Rios listened to White's ideas about confronting dropouts and liked what they heard.

"Then the kids will realize that there's someone out there who wants to help," said Rosemary Rios, a 46-year-old cake decorator from McAllen.

White, an attorney, was term limited out after three two-year terms as mayor of Texas' largest city. He dropped his bid for U.S. Senate and switched to the gubernatorial race last year.

Asked about Perry's scheduled appearance, White said, "people want results not photo ops."