DALLAS (AP) - U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison renewed her claims Tuesday thatGov. Rick Perry's decisions are too heavily influenced by lobbyistsand that he fails to listen to ordinary Texans.
Speaking at a meeting of Dallas County Republican women,Hutchison resurrected the governor's failed attempt to requirevaccinating sixth-grade girls against the virus that causescervical cancer.
Tuesday was the three-year anniversary of Perry's executiveorder, which eventually was overridden when the Legislature blockedstate officials from requiring the shots for at least fouryears.
That moratorium expires next January, or in 342 days, 11 hours,and 43 minutes -- at least according to a countdown clock Tuesdaythat Hutchison has on her campaign Web site.
Perry's order outraged social conservatives who said itcontradicted the state's abstinence-only education policy andtrampled parental rights.
At the time of his order, Perry's former chief of staff was alobbyist for the vaccine manufacturer, Merck and Co.
Although the governor said he was "erring on the side or life"in issuing the order, a news release from the Hutchison campaignsaid "it looks like Perry was really erring on the side of Merckand their lobbyists."
"This mandate was driven by lobbyists and special interests inAustin," Hutchison said. "The only way to ensure that parentalrights are not trampled to help out a lobbyist friend in Austin isto elect someone who will put Texans first."
Perry declined to directly address Hutchison's criticism duringremarks Tuesday at Texas Instruments headquarters in Dallas.
He said he disagreed with the senator, adding "I think Texaswants a governor who is looking forward, not a governor who islooking backward."
The Republican gubernatorial primary is in one month. At adebate Friday among the three candidates, including GOP activistDebra Medina, Perry said his failed order was not a mistake.
"The Governor looked at this issue as protecting life andSenator Hutchison is pro choice," Perry campaign spokesman MarkMiner wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Hutchison has said she was opposes overturning Roe v. Wade, thelandmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, but believesin parental consent for minors seeking abortions and her supportfor bans on late-term abortions.
The senator also said Perry, the state's longest-servinggovernor, has been in office too long. Every governor from SamHouston to George W. Bush "put their stamp on our state, and theydid it in eight years or less," she said.
In a speech in front of an audience of reporters and a few TexasInstruments employees, Perry touted the strength of the Texaseconomy relative to other states. Perry acknowledged he is focusedon the March 2 primary and hopes to avoid a runoff by getting atleast 50 percent of the vote.
"I don't wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat," hesaid. "I am very comfortable that we have this state on track."
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