After 20 years as a Republican, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has abandoned the party to run for governor of Texas as an Independent, challenging Republican Governor Rick Perry. The race is not only interesting because of her defection, but because one of her sons, Scott McClellan, is President Bush‘s press secretary.
Chris Matthews was joined by Carole Keeton Strayhorn to discuss the upcoming race.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST 'HARDBALL': Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Carole Strayhorn thank you very much, state comptroller for joining us tonight.
You have put your son in the hot seat. Well, it‘s great to have you. And great to be down in Houston. Let me ask you, is your son on the hot seat? Is he the cat on the hot tin roof because of his job and his mother?
CAROLE KEETON STRAYHORN, (I) TX CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: Listen. All four of my sons grew up in the hot seat. So they‘ve gone from literally diapers to shaving while I‘ve been in the public arena. So they‘re used to that, and I‘m pleased and proud to be running as a Texas independent for governor in 2006. I‘m going to be a governor for all Texans, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, in the big cities like I grew up, if you ran for office against the wrong person, you lost your job. Your family lost all their jobs. Is President Bush that clean a politician that he‘s willing to let his press secretary‘s mother run against his governor?
STRAYHORN: Listen. All of my sons are great in their own right. I‘ve got four grown sons, five young granddaughters. The good Lord has a sense of humor. I have got a sixth on the way. That may be another girl too. But they all are doing a great job, and I‘m proud of all of my sons, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, Carole, I thought my dinner table was tough. You must have a tough training table in the way you raise your boys.
STRAYHORN: Let me tell you what, Chris, my focus is right here in Texas. And we have a governor whose administration has been mean spirited and for a special few. He‘s had nine sessions of the legislature to fix our public schools and hasn‘t done that.
We‘ve got to cut property taxes. We‘ve got to fix our public schools, and we need to get something done. And Rick Perry has so politically fractured this state that‘s why I‘m running as an independent. We have got to set partisan politician aside, and I‘m setting partisan politics aside not only for this race, Chris, I‘m setting partisan politics aside during the Strayhorn administration.
MATTHEWS: Are you a conservative?
STRAYHORN: Absolutely. I am a common sense fiscal conservative. You know, I would rather pay $98 a month and insure a kid with prescription drugs and get that 72 percent match from the feds, rather than pay $6,700 for one hospital stay picked up by the property taxes going right through the roof. I am a common sense conservative. I would rather educate our kids than incarcerate our kids.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Republican Party. Do you have a problem with the Republican Party today? That‘s why you‘re leaving it or are you leaving it because you don‘t like Rick Perry?
STRAYHORN: Chris, I have set aside partisan politics, as I said, because this governor, Rick Perry, has so politically fractured this state, that we can‘t get anything done. This governor has absolutely forgotten our children. He has ignored education. The taxes have gone up.
You know, the budget under Rick Perry has gone up $40 billion and 41 percent in just five years. Skyrocketing pocket costs, everything from utility bills to homeowners insurance rates, and then he has absolutely abandoned our border.
MATTHEWS: Well, I was just checking the history books or rather one of my producers did, and they said the last independent to be elected governor of the lone star state was Sam Houston.
STRAYHORN: That‘s right. And I love Sam Houston.
MATTHEWS: Can you do what Sam Houston did?
STRAYHORN: By the way, that was 1859. Absolutely. Every speech I give by the way for decades, I‘ve been quoting Sam Houston, and over the last couple years, I‘ve always quoted Sam Houston right before the battle of San Jesana (ph). He said we‘re nerved for the contest, and we must conquer or we will perish.
Well, Chris, I too am nerved for the contest. And together with people from all walks of life across this state, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and those who I have no idea what their political affiliation is, we‘re going to change this state, change the leadership at the top.
Under Rick Perry, we have had misplaced priorities and failed leadership. And it‘s time to get something done. Texans want to fix our schools. Our most precious resource are our kids. And let me tell you, as a mama and a grandma, you know, Rick Perry wants his legacy to be that he sat in the governor‘s chair for more years than anyone else.
Well, I don‘t sit, I do. And, Chris, I want Carole Keeton Strayhorn‘s legacy to be that with every breath of air in her lungs, she fought passionately for education, passionately for paychecks and jobs for all Texans and passionately for our most precious resource, our kids.
MATTHEWS: OK. Carole, you‘re a record vote getter in Texas, as a candidate for comptroller. You‘ve won it a couple of times.
But let me ask you about the big issues. Do you think the Republican Party has departed from its fiscally conservative roots? They‘re running— the U.S. Congress right now, the United States government is running almost a $400 billion deficit, we‘re heading toward. Do you think that represents a waywardness from fiscal orthodoxy?
STRAYHORN: Chris, on January 2nd when I announced as an Independent and that‘s a Texas Independent for governor, I said I‘m putting aside partisan politics. I have put aside partisan politics. I‘m not going to sit here and discuss partisan politics with you. I am going to discuss what we‘re going to do in the state of Texas.
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you going to do about illegal immigration?
STRAYHORN: Oh, yes, let‘s talk about that. Yes, let‘s talk about that.
MATTHEWS: Let me take an issue that coincides nationally and in terms of the state of Texas.
MATTHEWS: Not so much Texas, but other southwestern states. Illegal immigration. Everybody talks about it. Pat Buchanan talks about a big fence, and all the liberals talk about different things. Nobody talks about getting rid of illegal hiring. Would you do that? Would you stop a company or a business or a hotel or golf course from hiring somebody in the country illegally? Would you actually do that?
STRAYHORN: Chris, I am adamantly opposed to illegal immigration, and let me tell you the difference in myself and our current government.
MATTHEWS: Well, everybody is. Everybody says they are.
STRAYHORN: Well, let me tell you what Rick Perry did. Rick Perry signed legislation so that an illegal immigrant can enter higher education in the state of Texas paying in-state tuition. Now he did that for illegal immigrants.
Let me tell you what happens if you‘re Carl Basherman (ph) and you came back from the Iraq war to Austin, Texas. that happens to be my hometown city. He was in Iraq for two years. He comes backs to Austin, Texas, to enter Austin Community College, and he is told he has to pay out of state tuition because he hasn‘t been here the last two years.
Well he went to war for us, and I went to war for him. And now we‘ve got him admitted on in-state tuition. But, you know, Rick Perry...
MATTHEWS: So you‘re tougher on—you‘re saying that you‘re tougher on illegal immigration than Rick Perry is? And that‘s an issue?
STRAYHORN: Absolutely. Rick Perry has so abandoned the border that ordinary citizens instead of our law enforcement officials are having to enforce illegal immigration.
MATTHEWS: Does Rick Perry, the governor of the state, have a corruption problem? Or is he immune from the problems—DeLay has had a problem with being indicted. The Congress in Washington has a problem with Abramoff. Maybe DeLay might have that problem too soon. We don‘t know.
Do you think the governor you‘re running against, a Republican, you say you don‘t want to be partisan, but does the Republican establishment have a problem here?
STRAYHORN: The governor I‘m running against certainly has problems. He has misplaced priorities, failed leadership.
Let me take the state office of federal relations in Washington, D.C., as an example. That office has been there since the 1960‘s, and this is the first time, the first time ever that a governor has contracted for over a million dollars with two lobbyist groups.
Now, I don‘t care whether you‘re lobbying from the governor‘s office or governing from the lobby‘s office, it‘s wrong. And under a Strayhorn administration, that will come to a screeching halt.
MATTHEWS: Is the governor of Texas behaving corruptly?
STRAYHORN: I‘m telling you that what is going on has been mean spirited and for a special few.
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