HIAWATHA (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry was welcomed Tuesday in Iowa by Republicans who said he has not been tarnished by the recent felony indictment.
Perry came to Iowa to campaign for 1st Congressional District candidate Rod Blum, and it was the potential 2016 presidential candidate’s first visit here since he was indicted last month on two felony counts alleging he abused the power of his office.
Republicans who gathered for the midday event at a political office in Hiawatha dismissed the indictment.
“The indictment is from a very polarized and political office,” said Coleen Ball, 53, from Cedar Rapids. “I thought he was completely correct.”
Perry, 64, is accused of leveraging his veto power to try to oust a Democratic district attorney whose office oversees the state’s Public Integrity Unit. Perry cut off $7.5 million in state funds to the unit — which prosecutes public corruption in Texas — when DA Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a drunken driving arrest.
The longest-serving governor in Texas history has gained favorable attention nationally by dismissing the case as a political ploy. Perry has not yet indicated if he will run again for president, but he has visited Iowa repeatedly since November, raising funds for GOP candidates and seeking advice from political insiders.
Asked if it was appropriate to campaign in the wake of the indictment, Perry said, “It’s appropriate for me to continue to do my work.”
During brief remarks to the more than 50 people in attendance, Perry spoke about job gains in Texas and drew applause when he talked about sending National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, using an oft-repeated line: “If the federal government will not secure the borders of this country, the state of Texas will.”
Perry entered the 2012 presidential race with much fanfare, parachuting in relatively late in August 2011. But he quickly stumbled, dropping from a front-runner to an also-ran because of a series of gaffes and poor debate performances — most notably his “oops” moment, when he could only list two of the three federal agencies he said he would close if elected president.
Perry finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses in early 2012 and quit the race two weeks later.
Eric Fleming, 53, also from Cedar Rapids, said he doesn’t think the recent indictment will damage Perry’s 2016 presidential chances, should he decide to run.
“I think the indictment is a badge of honor,” Fleming said. “I like Gov. Perry. I relate to him.”