Image: Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Harry Cabluck  /  AP
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, leans over to kiss Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, left, during his visit to the session in the Texas House of Representatives on Wednesday.
updated 5/20/2009 6:22:11 PM ET 2009-05-20T22:22:11

A comment by a strategist for Gov. Rick Perry that the Republican Party shouldn't act like a brothel to lure new voters has infuriated prominent GOP women in Texas and given Perry's primary rival, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, fuel for their election fight.

Perry is trying to distance himself from the remark, published in the Dallas Morning News, by consultant David Carney, who said he agreed the Republican Party needed to attract new voters. But, he added, "that doesn't mean you take your principles and throw them out the door and become a whorehouse and let anybody in who wants to come in, regardless."

Former Republican National Committee member Denise McNamara is leading a group of GOP women demanding that Perry apologize for and repudiate the comment.

"As businesswomen, community leaders and mothers, it is always concerning and disheartening when we see people resort to behavior aimed at belittling women," they wrote in a letter to Perry on Tuesday. "Therefore, you cannot imagine how appalling it was to see your campaign's chief strategist liken our Senior Senator's primary campaign to 'opening the doors of a whorehouse.'"

'Divisive, non-substantive rhetoric'
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Carney was not speaking for the governor or referencing the gubernatorial race.

Hutchison's campaign didn't buy it.

"Unfortunately for Texas Republicans, Rick Perry and his spokesman are utilizing the same divisive, non-substantive rhetoric that fueled huge losses in 2006 and 2008 for Republicans in Texas and nationally," Hutchison spokesman Hans Klingler said.

McNamara told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Carney's remark demonstrated a lack of class. "This kind of remark should ostracize social conservatives and people who appreciate civility in politics," she said.

McNamara said Hutchison, a Republican, has tried to refrain from attacking Perry because of his role as Texas' leader during the legislative session that began in January.

"That's about to wrap up," she noted, predicting that Hutchison will soon move into full campaign mode.

Hutchison twice before considered running for governor against Perry but bowed out. She has raised money for a state campaign account, unveiled a long list of well-known supporters and made campaign appearances, without fully announcing her candidacy.

The winner of the March 2010 primary is the heavy favorite to win the general election in this state where, despite some Democratic gains, Republicans hold all statewide elected offices.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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