This is an anti-Democratic year and Texas is a very conservative state. So why isn’t Rick Perry cruising to re-election with approval ratings in the 60s or even the 70s?
Though it’s rarely discussed, one possibility is an undercurrent of unspoken discomfort with Rick Perry among Texas conservatives – discomfort that may partially be attributed to years of detailed rumors circulating in Texas and national political circles that Governor Rick Perry is gay.
In recent years, several prominent Texas news organizations have mucked around trying to get to the bottom of this matter. The Austin-American Statesman even went so far as to run a lengthy story about its investigation into the rumors of a troubled marriage, pronouncing, in essence, that there was nothing to report.
Maybe that pronouncement emboldened Perry to work harder to macho his image. He boasted of an odd incident in which he killed a coyote with hollow point ammunition (his security detail was strangely absent that day). He’s asserted that he’s a “big tough guy,” and he posed with his “Come and Take It” boots on the cover of Newsweek Magazine. Recently, Perry went so far as to say: “We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”
Yet, the rumors of gay relationships persist, and occasionally flare.
During the Texas gubernatorial primary, Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s campaign caused a bit of a stir when it was discovered that they had embedded meta tags in their campaign web-site that optimized it for searches including the terms “gay,” and “Rick Perry”. In non-nerd speak, this means that when those terms were Googled, Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s campaign website was one of the first results.
As I began looking into this, I repeatedly heard detailed rumors of a past gay relationship between the Governor and his former Secretary of State, Geoff Connor. A version of this story included Perry’s wife, Anita, catching Connor and Perry in the act and screaming at him the next day from her office phone. The most common retelling has it that the Governor was caught, struck a quick (and expensive) deal with his wife that allowed him to avoid an immediate trip to divorce court, and swore everyone involved to secrecy.
I also learned of a new rumor making the rounds. Several sources told me they had heard that the Governor is in a current gay relationship with one of the two (male) chefs that Perry he keeps on staff at the tax-payer funded ($10,000 a month) temporary governor’s mansion.
What’s interesting, given the longevity and evolving nature of these rumors, is that as far as I can tell, no media outlet has ever publicly asked the Governor the simple question: “Are you gay?”
To my mind, this isn’t an offensive question, any more than someone’s religious affiliation or military service record. Some people are gay, some aren’t. Of course, if the rumors prove true, the fact that Rick Perry has done so much to misrepresent who he is, possibly has a paid lover, the chef, on the state payroll, and the hypocrisy regarding his public persona would all conspire to make this a matter of extraordinary public interest.
Around the time he became Governor, he denounced and denied the rumors that he and his wife were divorcing. But he never mentioned the rumors having to do with his sexual orientation – the supposed reason for the rumored divorce. This loose thread still flutters in the wind.
I thought it would be worth asking Texas conservatives whether or not they had knowledge of these rumors, if they would continue to support Perry if the rumors proved true, and if they believed those that hold the public’s trust owe a duty of honesty with regard to these matters to their constituents. Who better to ask than all 250 Republican Party County chairs?
I harvested the chairs’ names and contact information from the Texas GOP’s website, then called through the entire list. I was straightforward with who I was and that I was looking into the question of Governor Perry sexual orientation.
I spoke with 100 out of the 250 chairs. More chairs hung up on me as I approached the end of the list, and I suspect that by that time, either the state GOP or the Perry campaign heard of what I was doing and demanded chairs avoid me.
Despite that, many were open to talking, and they were candid with their thoughts. The results were interesting:
1.) About a third of the chairs said that they were aware of the rumors.
2.) 15 thought Perry should publicly and unequivocally state his sexual orientation. There are:
• Bosque County – Tom L. Bratcher
• Brazos County – Paul Rieger
• Concho County – Beth Grounds
• Crane County – Tom Currie
• Crosby County – Edward Merrick
• Edwards County – Annette Cox
• Gregg County – Keith Rothra
• Harrison County – Chad L. Sims
• Hunt County – David Hale
• Jones County – Isaac Castro
• Karnes County – Jason Jansky
• Kenedy County – Lorraine Burns
• Kent County – Maggie Barnes
• Lamar County – John Kruntorad
• Lamb County – Charlotte Cain
• Crosby County’s Merrick said that public servants, “… if they are worth anything, will be honest about who they are.”
• Mr. Jansky, of Karnes County, said, “I don’t think anyone appreciates a secret life, whether you are killing hookers or banging guys.”
3.) 2 chairs said they wouldn’t support the Governor if he was gay. They are:
Paul Rieger – Brazos County
Kathy Riffe – Sherman County
4.) 19 Chairs said they would support the governor even if he was gay. Larry May, Chairman of Nolan County, said, “I’d vote for a perverted Republican before a liberal every time.” They are:
• Beth Grounds – Concho County
• Tom Currie – Crane County
• Annette Cox – Edwards County
• David Hale – Hunt County
• Betty Stiles – Aransas County
• Yvonne Dewey – Brazoria County
• Jean Ellis – Colorado County
• Robert Ford – Falls County
• Kerry Pratt – Floyd County
• Steve Murphy – Frio County
• Tony Salinas – Jim Hogg County
• Anne N. Rose – Kimble County
• John Quigley – Kinney County
• Duane Rawson – Mills County
• Walter D. Wilkerson – Montgomery County
• William Knight – Moore County
• Barbara Upham – Palo Pinto County
• Larry Brumley – Panola County
• John Tyson – Randall County
It isn’t clear what the Governor fears when it comes to addressing these persistent rumors. Public opinion polls reveal ever-increasing tolerance for gays (and even gay marriage). For the first time, the American military is developing plans to recruit, train and deploy openly gay soldiers. In my view, this is a healthy discussion for Texas to have, allowing the matter to move to being settled, once and for all.
I will continue researching this developing story and will continue reaching out to others in the state’s Republican Party and social conservative circles. I’ll do so not only to see if anyone in the party might know anything, but also to gauge their reaction upon hearing this information.
That said, if Governor Perry wants to close this matter once and for all, he should simply answer the question: “Governor, are you gay?”