Perry says campaign won't interfere with job

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on August 19, 2011 at 9:01 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 19 at 10:47 PM

DALLAS - In the months ahead, Gov. Rick Perry will be out of the state quite a bit campaigning for president.

But, Perry's spokeswoman said he can both campaign and serve as the governor, which pays him $150,000 a year.

As Perry campaigns for president, he enjoys the higher national profile he's nurtured for almost 11 years. He can do that and still be governor because of the lower expectations of his office.

Perry campaign adviser Reggie Bashur, who also worked on former President George W. Bush's staff when he was governor, said Perry is up to the challenge.

"It's been done before successfully and it will certainly be done again successfully," he said.

Perry only needs to look at how then governor Bush ran for president in 1999 and 2000. Bush spent 30 days just in Iowa prior to January caucuses.

Bush, and now Perry, could spend so much time away from Austin because of the 1870-era Texas Constitution. It decentralized political power, giving the governor little to do officially outside of legislative sessions.

Political science professor Cal Jillson teaches Texas government and politics at SMU.

"For the next 18 months, he's pretty much on his own," Jillson said. "If there's a parade, he'll ride in it, wave his cowboy hat, he might go make speeches around the country, but it's not a 9-to-5 day-to-day job."

The late Gov. Dolph Briscoe personified how inconsequential the governor's real duties are while serving from 1973 to 1979. Briscoe withdrew to his Uvalde ranch for long periods, becoming to his critics a "caretaker governor."

"So, if you choose to be off at the ranch like Dolph Briscoe did, that's one way to do it," Jillson said 

"Trying to look busy in Austin is another way to do it, and that's what Rick Perry has generally done," he added.

Perry's spokeswoman said he keeps up on state business while away, and when he's gone, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst takes over.

As acting governor, Dewhurst earns Perry's pay rate of $411 a day instead of the about $20 Dewhurst gets as a legislator. Perry still earns full pay.

Democrats criticize Perry's travel, saying the only time he spent on his job this year was to demand cuts in education.

"For Texas Democrats, this is an opportunity to get out the truth on Rick Perry's record, which is he's been a disastrous Texas governor and would make an even worse president," said Kirsten Gray, a Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman.

But, if his White House quest doesn't work out, Perry can return to Texas and serve out his term. The constitution does not require him to resign as he runs.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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