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Perry insists he was standing up for the rule of law when he vetoed funding for a local prosecutor jailed for drunken driving
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
AUSTIN, Texas (CFP) — With a defiant and determined tone, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry is vowing to fight his indictment on two felony charges stemming from his veto of a funding bill for an Austin prosecutor who refused his demand that she resign after being arrested for drunken driving.
“I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again, I would make the exact same decision,” Perry said in an interview with Fox News Sunday on August 17. “This is not the way that we settle … political differences in this country. You don’t do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box.”
A grand jury in Travis County, which includes Austin, indicted Perry on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion stemming from his veto of $7.5 million in funding for a public integrity unit in the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. If convicted, he could face prison time.
In April 2013, Lehmberg, a Democrat, was arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, and video showed her being combative with the arresting officers. She pleaded guilty and served 20 days in jail.
Perry demanded the Lehmberg resign and threatened to veto funding for the public integrity unit — which investigates elected officials across Texas — if she refused to go. When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry vetoed the funding.
“I had lost confidence in her. The public had lost confidence in her. And I did what every governor has done for decades, which is make a decision on whether or not it was in the proper use of state money to go to that agency,” Perry told Fox News Sunday.
Many Republicans in Texas, including Perry, have long been critical of the public integrity unit, saying it empowers Democratic prosecutors elected in Democrat-leaning Travis County to launch politically motivated investigations of Republicans.
A Republican judge appointed a special prosecutor, San Antonio attorney Mike McCrum, to investigate the circumstances of Perry’s veto after a complaint was filed by a liberal advocacy group.
Early in the Obama administration, McCrum had been considered for an appointment as a federal prosecutor, with the backing of Texas’s two GOP senators. But he withdrew his name in 2010 after the appointment stalled in the Senate.
Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, is not running for re-election this year. But he is considering making a bid for the White House in 2016, after making an unsuccessful presidential run in 2012.