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Gov. Rick Perry to visit Maryland with pitch for Texas

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, will ride into the Democratic stronghold of Maryland next week as part of his mission to rustle up business for the Lone Star State.

Perry's press office said he will visit Maryland on Wednesday to hold private meetings with companies and possibly host a reception. His Maryland itinerary is still not complete, spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.

The Texas governor's incursion into the territory of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, a possible contender for his party's nomination, will follow Perry's launch Thursday of a nearly $500,000 radio and TV advertising campaign bashing Maryland's business climate.

In the Maryland ads, Perry criticizes O'Malley for fees and taxes increased during the governor's seven years in office.

"When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas," Perry says in a 60-second radio spot.

Perry, in his 13th year as Texas governor, has used a similar one-two punch of media buys and personal visits in other states with Democratic chief executives, including New York, Connecticut, California and Missouri. So far, he has avoided forays into states with Republican governors.

The ads aimed at luring businesses to the Lone Star state, as well as Perry's travel, are paid for by TexasOne, an economic development group funded by private donations, Perry's office said.

The news of Perry's visit comes as O'Malley is planning an aggressive travel schedule of his own. An aide said Thursday that he will visit four states in the next month to promote Democratic candidates for office.

O'Malley, who is term-limited and openly considering a presidential bid, will hit states that are important in building a nationwide campaign — Florida, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. He also will head to New York City for a panel discussion at the New School to tout Maryland's progress.

O'Malley political spokeswoman Lis Smith said his work to promote Democratic governors in other states "is a lot more effective than Perry's job-poaching expeditions."

Perry has said he will not seek another term as governor but has left the door open to another presidential bid in 2016. He was a late entrant into the 2012 GOP nomination contest but stumbled in debate performances and was an early dropout.

When the news of Perry's radio ad campaign broke Wednesday, O'Malley dismissed it as a "tired old PR gimmick" and invited the Texan to Maryland "to see firsthand the better choices that have led to these better results."

After Thursday's announcement that Perry would indeed visit, an O'Malley spokeswoman said the governor would have no comment.

Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch of Annapolis said he was surprised that another governor would come to Maryland and criticize a state that's been top-ranked in education for five years in a row, particularly when better education leads to better jobs for citizens.

"It's equally ironic that it's coming from someone who, when he ran for president, couldn't even identify the three government agencies he'd like to eliminate," Busch said. "Maybe he's coming here to take some of our remedial higher education classes. We'd be happy to offer him our affordable higher education prices."

Maryland Republicans had a mixed reaction to Perry's message. While they love the critique of O'Malley's economic policies, they said they don't actually want to see Maryland businesses drifting to Texas.

"We're Marylanders first," said House of Delegates Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke of Anne Arundel County. "We're here to make Maryland more tax-friendly, more business-friendly."

Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel, a Republican candidate for governor, urged Marylanders to reject Perry's effort to lure business away from Maryland. George said his message was "Don't move, vote."

"While private-sector jobs continue to disappear under O'Malley, we can still turn our state around," George said.

GOP state chairwoman Diana Waterman said that the party hasn't scheduled any events with Perry during his visit but would get in touch with his office.

"If he's going to be here, I'd like to take advantage of it," she said. "I'm not happy that he's trying to take our businesses, but it's understandable."

Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that studies public subsidies for economic development subsidies, said efforts to grab jobs from other states are nothing new. But only Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, have exclusively targeted states with governors of the other party.

"What Perry's doing is a new partisan low in the war among the states," LeRoy said.

The organization in January issued a report on interstate poaching that included an entire chapter on Perry because "Texas is an aggressive outlier on this." The chapter was called "Cowboy Industrial Policy: The Lone Star State's Misguided Approach to Jobs."

Political scientists and Republican activists agreed that Perry's visit is as much about presidential politics as about jobs for Texas — if not more.

"It's an effort by Perry to get his name out there," said Donald F. Norris, chairman of the public policy department of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Todd Eberly, who teaches political science at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland, agreed that the Perry visit is more about politics than economic development. But he said O'Malley, a former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, left himself open for such a move after he went around the country criticizing Republican governors.

"When governors are happily sticking their noses into other governors' business, they're going to have to expect to get a swat on the nose sometimes," Eberly said.

While Perry's visit is unlikely to turn deeply blue Maryland into a red state, Eberly said the Texan could make gains with a message blasting O'Malley. "It would help him win him delegates in a Maryland primary," he said. "

Brian Griffiths, a member of the state Republican Party executive committee and 2012 Perry delegate, said Perry's visit was "absolutely about 2016." Griffiths said he believes state Republicans will respond to the Texan's message if not his invitation.

"This should be a wake-up call. Not encouraging people to move to Texas, but I hope it moves them to get involved with the political scene and to get involved in their government and make Maryland more like Texas as far as taxes and regulation go."

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

ecox@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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