The first debate in the Texas governor's race will be between a pair of Houstonians in the Hill Country on Monday, minus Gov. Rick Perry.
Democratic nominee Bill White and Libertarian Kathie Glass, both lawyers, are scheduled to face off in a Kerrville Area League of Women Voters debate at 7 p.m. at the Cailloux Theatre in Kerrville.
The debate will be carried live on Kerrville's KVHC-TV and will be streamed live on the station's website.
Kerrville Area League President Donna Robinson said Perry was invited to attend but turned it down. Robinson said Perry remains invited to show up Monday if he wishes.
The governor still has an unhealthy obsession with his challenger's tax returns.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the governor will not debate White until White releases his personal income tax returns for the years he was assistant U.S. secretary of energy and Texas Democratic Party chairman, a period covering the mid-to-late 1990s. White has released his returns for the years he was Houston's mayor.
"We will discuss debates when Bill White comes clean with the people of Texas and releases his tax returns for his years on public service," Miner said.
White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said Perry is just playing games to avoid a debate.
"Next he'll be asking for Bill's tax returns when he was running concession stands as a teenager, or saying he'll only debate if Glenn Beck is the moderator," Bacon said. "If he doesn't want to debate, he should just say so instead of playing games like a typical career politician."
Okay then. Let's turn our attention to the people who will be there.
Glass favors states' rights, nullification of federal laws by the states if they consider them unconstitutional, an elimination of the public school property tax and state payments for Medicaid. Glass said Perry talks about states' rights and less government spending, but "he really doesn't believe in it."
Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson called White's decision to debate Glass a "mixed bag."
The debate gives White the opportunity to promote a candidate who may draw votes from Perry in the general election and highlight the fact that Perry will not debate. But Jillson said it also gives White's campaign an air of desperation.
"It caters to the idea that they are a little frantic and are taking the eye off the ball, which is Rick Perry," Jillson said.
Jillson vastly overstates the governor's only hope to get something out of a no-show. There is lots to be gained for both Glass and White, and it all comes at Perry's expense. He will again serve as a punching bag -- I prefer pinata -- and once the polls show him losing more ground, he'll get his summer
I'll be watching to see if the two on stage this evening score much beyond but added name rec and a few style points, though. There's plenty of Debra Messina-ish crazy for the TeaBaggers and less sensible conservatives to like about Glass, and whatever she says tonight will raise her stock a bit. But the Republicans who stuck with Kay Bailey in March can find plenty to like about White as well, so it will be interesting to see if he makes an appeal directly to them. I want to see if White gets asked about the Greens, and also about the Barnett Shale (scroll to nearly the end of Dave Mann's article in the Texas Observer and begin at the paragraph that starts with "In March" in bold if you need the backstory). Those would be the toughest questions he could get asked IMO, not the Perry-campaign-fed questions about BTEC nor the inevitable and tired "can Democrats win anything this year?" crap.
Update: Kuffner's take, this excerpt...