Partisans line up – pro and con – on Texas Gov. Rick Perry indictment

The indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges is at least a distraction from any presidential plans he may have. Democrats are chortling as Republicans scoff at what they see as a highly partisan maneuver.

Tony Gutierrez/AP
Texas Gov.Rick Perry speaks at the 2014 Red State Gathering in Fort Worth last week. Perry has been indicted by an Austin grand jury for abuse of power.

The abuse-of-power indictment handed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry Friday has political partisans lining up for and against the would-be Republican presidential candidate.

On the governor’s side, fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz quickly took to Facebook to embrace Perry:

“Unfortunately, there has been a sad history of the Travis County District Attorney's Office engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions, and this latest indictment of the governor is extremely questionable. Rick Perry is a friend, he's a man of integrity – I am proud to stand with Rick Perry.” (22,000+ “likes” so far)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted: “The lawsuit against @GovernorPerry is a blatant misuse of the judicial system by liberal activists who couldn’t defeat him at the polls.”

Former House Majority Leader and fellow Texan Tom DeLay weighed in, tweeting: “It’s unwholesome, unfair, and it’s ultimately mischievous.” (DeLay himself is still fighting a felony conviction for illegally shuffling money into political campaigns, The Dallas Morning News points out. The case is still pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He was also indicted by a Travis County grand jury, although under a different district attorney.)

On the Democrat side, US Rep. Joaquin Castro, (D) of Texas, tweets: “For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office.”

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement said: “Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas…. We call on Governor Perry to immediately step down from office. Texans deserve real leadership and this is unbecoming of our Governor.”

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who’s in a tough fight to replace the retiring Perry as governor, stopped short of calling for his resignation: “I trust that the justice system will do its job, and these indictments handed down by the grand jury demonstrate that some very seriously potential crimes have been committed.”

Two former top advisers to President Obama differed on the Perry affair, however.

Jim Messina tweeted: “Here's to suddenly loving the Texas legal process: Rick Perry indicted.”

But David Axelrod (also on Twitter) cautioned that “Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy.”

The essence of the dispute (and the indictment) is that Perry called on Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg (a Democrat) to resign after she had been convicted of drunk driving, for which she served 21 days of a 45-day jail sentence.

Ms. Lehmberg oversees a public integrity unit – a kind of state government watchdog meant to enforce state ethics laws – which was probing alleged corruption by the Perry administration. When she refused to resign (which would have allowed Perry to name her replacement), the Governor threatened to cut $7.5 million from the public integrity unit budget.

Grand jurors in Travis County charged Mr. Perry with abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant.

“The indictment is a blow to Perry just as he’s trying to rehabilitate his image after a disastrous 2012 presidential run,” writes Nahal Toosi of Politico. “But he also is the third major potential White House candidate on the Republican side – the others being Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin – to face legal problems at a time when no clear GOP standard-bearer has appeared in the run-up to 2016.”

Local media report that Perry will have to report to the Travis County Jail in Austin to be booked, fingerprinted, and have his photo taken for a mug shot.

There’s no doubt that he will fight the charges. “We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country,” he said Saturday.

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