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A Governor’s Race Full of Pettiness

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“Today is Day 172 of liberal trial lawyer Bill White refusing to debate.” So reads the Rick Perry campaign press release that popped into my inbox late yesterday afternoon.  

It was also “Day 122 of Rick Perry refusing to debate,” according to the Bill White supporters over at Burnt Orange Report. And here I thought yesterday was just a Thursday. Silly me.

By my count, it was Day 43 of me being fed up with the idiotic rhetoric in the governor’s race.

Further down in the Perry release, we’re told that yesterday was also day 172 of Bill White “hiding his taxes.” You see, in the logic—and I’m using that word loosely—of the Perry campaign, White is refusing to debate because he won’t release his tax returns going back, I believe, to the year 1942. White has made public his returns since 2003, which wasn’t good enough disclosure for the Perry campaign, which says the governor won’t debate his opponent until White releases returns back to 1994.

Got all that? Me neither.

Perry, of course, is the one trying to sidestep a debate, and most major media outlets are calling called him out for it (Burka included).

But just as the press was beginning to criticize Perry’s refusal to debate, White’s supporters changed the story line by stooping to grade-school name calling. They ran an ad in newspapers across the state earlier this week that labeled Perry a “coward.” I mean, really, does anyone—even the most partisan Democrat—really believe Perry’s a coward?

The Perry people then over-reacted by wrapping their man in the flag and emphasizing his service in the Air Force. When you refuse to debate, you have to expect people will start showing up to events in chicken suits and shady third-party groups will start calling your candidate names.

With all this name calling and day-counting and sniping, some voters have probably tuned out. And who could blame them?

White’s campaign has at least put forth some substantive policy proposals, though they haven’t received nearly the media attention they deserve. His ethics reform plan is impressive (you can read the plan here) though its impact was muted by a Texas Tribune story documenting that White’s record violated his own ethics proposal.

On Thursday, White was campaigning on insurance reform. That’s a big issue in this state. Texas has the second highest (or highest, depending on the year) home insurance rates in the country—a direct result of our lax regulation of insurance companies. White has proposed cracking down on the industry a bit and not letting State Farm hike rates whenever it wants. (You can read more details here.)

Hopefully White keeps up the policy talk—and Perry follows suit.

It’s still only August. There’s still time for this race to center on substantive issues: the budget deficit, job creation, ethics, taxes, environmental regulation, insurance reform, and education.

So far, though, both sides have engaged in too many petty antics.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.