[Perry and Sanchez debate 2]
In Thursday's debate, Gov. Rick Perry and Tony Sanchez discussed campaign spending but offered no apologies for their record-breaking slew of attack ads.

Both candidates were seated, minimizing the differences in their stature and creating a more conversational tone.




Debate commentary by the state's major newspapers

John WorldPeace
October 25,  2002

Oct. 25, 2002, 1:13AM

For Sanchez, Perry, other's ads ring false

Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

DALLAS -- Republican Gov. Rick Perry defended his record in office and Democrat Tony Sanchez defended his business practices in their final televised debate Thursday, as each blamed the other for the negative tone of this year's campaign.

Sanchez, who already has spent $53 million of his own money in the campaign, said his advertising attacks Perry because the governor has been a failure in office.

"My ads have been truthful. They've been hard-hitting, certainly. But his ads have been very deceptive and very untruthful," Sanchez said during the debate, broadcast statewide from the studios of KERA-TV in Dallas. Sponsors included the Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly, KERA and WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Perry said his attack commercials were run as a response to Sanchez's criticism of the state's public education system.

"When Mr. Sanchez decided to attack my record, attack the public schools, attack the schoolchildren in the state of Texas ... I'm not going to sit back and let anybody attack our children and attack our public schools," Perry said.

But the core of Sanchez's negative advertising has focused on criticism of Perry over insurance issues.

Perry's attack commercials have focused on how drug dealers in the 1980s used Sanchez's Tesoro Savings & Loan of Laredo to launder $25 million in drug money and on the institution's financial failure in 1988. Sanchez said Perry is "obsessed" with the Tesoro story and is misleading voters about what happened.

Sanchez said two federal judges ruled that Tesoro officials properly handled the deposits from Mexico. He said that neither he nor any other Tesoro official knew the money was drug money but that Perry insists on running commercials implying that he knowingly laundered drug money.

"He keeps misrepresenting the facts to the people of Texas," Sanchez said.

He said what is important is not what happened 20 years ago, but what is happening today.

"The people of Texas are sick and tired of having to pay higher and higher insurance rates because his insurance cronies have given him so much money for his campaign, and he's turned the other way while they're abusing the people of Texas," Sanchez said.

Perry said Sanchez was responsible for the drug money at Tesoro and the institution's failure, which cost taxpayers $116 million.

"I don't think the people of the state of Texas want him running a $114 billion budget that the state of Texas requires," Perry said.

But Perry was on the defensive over his vetoes of Medicaid legislation and of a bill requiring insurance companies to promptly pay doctors' medical claims. Perry also had to defend himself on rising homeowners' insurance rates.

Perry argued that all of his vetoes were done for a reason.

He said he vetoed legislation to reduce teacher paperwork because it would have taken control away from local school districts.

He said he vetoed the Medicaid legislation because it would have created a redundant bureaucracy at the Texas Department of Health. He said he warned the bill's sponsor that he would veto the bill if changes were not made before it reached his desk.

"The good news is everything in that piece of legislation that was good, we've implemented," Perry said. "The things that were not good in that bill didn't go forward."

But Sanchez said the state lost $400 million in Medicaid funding because of the veto, money that could have provided health care for children. Sanchez said the Texas Medical Association's political action committee is supporting him because of Perry's veto of the prompt-pay legislation.

"The big insurance companies that have given him over a million dollars for his campaign told him to veto that legislation and he did exactly what he was told to do," Sanchez said.

Perry also was put on the hot seat over urging voters to cast ballots for the statewide Republican ticket, even though he has distanced himself from GOP state Supreme Court candidate Steven Wayne Smith. Smith, an opponent of affirmative action, has said it places "underqualified" minorities in universities.

"I support the Republican ticket, but there are just parts of it that I'm rooting for harder than others," Perry said, noting Smith's Democratic opponent, Margaret Mirabal, is using Perry's criticism of Smith in her ads.

Smith issued a statement after the debate saying his comments have been "repeatedly taken out of context."

Perry, Sanchez come out fighting in debate

Democrat blasts rival's record while governor tries to stay even-tempered


By PETE SLOVER / The Dallas Morning News

Scrambling to salvage a campaign lagging in the polls, Democrat Tony Sanchez accused Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday of being "deceptive and untruthful" and overwhelmed by the state's problems.

"You know, we've got an insurance crisis that is devastating Texas homeowners. We have an education system that is shortchanging millions of our children," Mr. Sanchez said in Dallas at the candidates' last televised debate. "It seems to me that we cannot afford any more of Rick Perry's experience."

From his front-runner position, Mr. Perry responded with unflagging decorum, packaging his anti-Sanchez rhetoric in even-tempered tones.

"I am not going to sit back and let anybody attack our children, attack our public schools and attack good programs in the state of Texas that Republicans and Democrats alike have worked together to put into place," Mr. Perry said. "I will stand up, and I will defend those."

Mr. Perry's delivery appeared to frustrate Mr. Sanchez, who alternately scribbled rebuttal points on a pad, shook his head and complained that the governor is "obsessed" with a failed Sanchez savings and loan.

The candidates didn't offer any apologies for their record-breaking slew of TV attack ads.

Mr. Sanchez has portrayed Mr. Perry as a sleazy politician in the pocket of big business. Mr. Perry has painted Mr. Sanchez as a hypocritical, morally weak business tycoon, willing to cut legal corners for a buck.

In the high-priced race, Mr. Sanchez's record campaign spending has exceeded $58 million, much of it his own money.

"I think it's a good investment. I want to give back to Texas," he said. "Nobody is going to own me for what they contribute to my campaign."

The Perry camp maintains that the Sanchez spending spree suggests a fiscally undisciplined candidate. "Never in the history of American politics has a candidate spent so much and said so little," Mr. Perry said.

Mr. Sanchez similarly accused Mr. Perry of talking a good game, but doing little.

"We have heard more programs, more ideas, more new proposals from Rick Perry in the last 60 days just than we have in the previous 18 years," Mr. Sanchez said. "This is what worries me. He says what he thinks people want to hear."

Mr. Sanchez went on to defend his expenses, saying, "I know every penny that was spent in this campaign, believe me. I am a good businessman. I've had to do everything in seven months. He's been campaigning for 18 years."

State budget

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Mr. Sanchez faces a Perry lead measured at 15 points in two recent media polls. The hourlong debate opened with a question likely to dominate next year's Legislature: how would each candidate avoid raising taxes in the face of a state budget deficit expect to range from $5 billion upward over the next two-year budget cycle.

In the debate, both candidates said it is too early to give up hope of balancing the state books without raising taxes.

"I think it's irresponsible to talk about new taxes before we have an opportunity to go in and find the inefficiencies and waste in our government," Mr. Sanchez said. "My opponent is the only one I ever heard say that Texas government doesn't waste money."

Mr. Perry has said he's already contacted state department heads to solicit their trimming ideas. "They came up with $1 billion worth of savings already," he said " I feel confident we will have a budget that is balanced with no new taxes."

Mr. Perry said he would close a loophole that lets corporations avoid state taxes by reorganizing as partnerships, which are exempt from state franchise tax.

"The franchise tax in the state of Texas needs to be fair," he said. "We don't need to expand the franchise tax into new areas, but individuals not paying their fair share in Texas need to pay it, period."

Mr. Sanchez said he would "lean toward" closing the tax loophole. "I will be careful," he said. "I want to understand the total impact on people when I make that decision."

'Professional politician'

Mr. Sanchez renewed his criticism of Mr. Perry as a "professional politician," a label he has employed since the outset of his campaign. Since 1985, Mr. Perry has served as a state legislator, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and, since December 2000, as governor after George W. Bush won the presidency.

Asked to defined how he has made a difference as an elected official, Mr. Perry expressed pride in his record on workers' compensation, higher education grants and other state programs.

"I think it's important that you have a governor that's able to work with individuals, Republican and Democrats alike," he said.

Mr. Sanchez, making his first run for office, has served as an appointee to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife board and is a regent of the University of Texas System. His Laredo-based business portfolio, valued at more than $600 million, is dominated by banking and oil and gas exploration.

Mr. Sanchez used the debate to try to clarify his military deferment record. Earlier this year, when asked about his draft history, Mr. Sanchez initially said several times that he couldn't remember details about student deferments he received while studying law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

Mr. Perry, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran who served his time elsewhere, renewed his call for Mr. Sanchez to release his college transcripts to clear up questions about his draft history, as well as personal tax records.

In the debate, Mr. Sanchez said he lost his deferment during his final year of law school, took his military physical in 1969 and finished law school without being called up. He again said he could not recall why he lost it.

"I had a deferment, as millions of students around the nation did," he said. "I don't think my records have any bearing on that. "

Mr. Perry seized on that, saying Texans "deserve a governor who is open and who is honest and allows their past records to be scrutinized by the public."

Trying for distance

Mr. Perry distanced himself from a statewide candidate on his party's ticket, Supreme Court hopeful Steven Wayne Smith, an Austin lawyer who faces a Democratic appeals judge, Margaret Mirabal. Mr. Smith's prior claim to fame was having filed the Hopwood lawsuit that killed affirmative action programs at state universities.

In the March primary, Mr. Smith beat a Hispanic incumbent appointed by Mr. Perry, and accused the governor of pandering to minorities. Since then, Mr. Smith has said that some prominent minority lawyers were not qualified to attend the law schools they did.

"I disagree strongly with Mr. Smith's statement, very strongly as a matter of fact," Mr. Perry said. "I support the Republican ticket, but there are just parts of it I'm rooting for harder than others."

Mr. Sanchez decried Mr. Perry's position on Mr. Smith, and his across-the-board opposition to affirmative action.

"What he will not say is he will not support this candidate who made those terrible remarks. Affirmative action is a good program if it's administered correctly," Mr. Sanchez said.

Renewed defense

Mr. Sanchez renewed his defense of actions at Tesoro Savings and Loan, a Laredo thrift founded by the Sanchez family where roughly $25 million was laundered by Mexican drug dealers during the early 1980s.

Mr. Perry has accused Mr. Sanchez of wrongdoing in the thrift's decision to release about $8 million in alleged drug money through wire transfers to Panama. Mr. Sanchez said that thrift officials fully cooperated with investigators and that a federal judge ruled the transfer of funds to Panama was the thrift's only legal option.

"I have an opponent who has become obsessed with this issue," he said. "And he's been very deceptive and untruthful about the facts."

Also, Mr. Perry has focused on the 1988 failure of the thrift, which led to a $161 million federal bailout, and Mr. Sanchez's payment of $1 million to settle allegations of mismanagement.

Mr. Sanchez has said the thrift, like many others, failed because of economic conditions and over-regulation.

Mr. Perry defended his veto record from last year, when he angered and surprised lawmakers by rejecting an unprecedented 82 bills.

Mr. Sanchez said the governor was acting at the behest of big donors. Mr. Perry said the vetoes prevented bad laws and that there were interest groups lobbying him on both sides of the nixed bills.

And, he said nobody should have been surprised by his actions because "strong signals were sent."

The candidates sparred over whether Mr. Perry's actions cost the state millions in funding for breast cancer.

Mr. Sanchez has criticized Mr. Perry for vetoing a wide-ranging bill containing several proposals regarding Medicaid, including birth-control measures opposed by some conservatives.

Among the proposals was a women's health care program that would have allowed the state to get $9 in federal money for every state dollar spent on prevention of diseases such as breast and cervical cancer.

Mr. Perry has said he found money for the state to fund breast and cervical cancer treatment programs.

He has said that at his urging state health officials cut spending and used the savings to fund $1.1 million in programs to treat poor women with breast and cervical cancer. The spending is expected to generate $3 million in federal matching money.

Mr. Sanchez also said Mr. Perry should not have killed a "prompt pay" bill that would have required insurance companies to pay claims to doctors quickly.

"We can't continue to go on like this," Mr. Sanchez said, noting that some doctors cannot afford to stay in business. "We should be very worried that doctors are closing their offices."

Mr. Perry said he vetoed that bill because he believed it would lead to more lawsuits.

The debate sponsors included The Dallas Morning News, WFAA-TV (Channel 8), Texas Cable News (TXCN, Cable Channel 38) and Texas Monthly.

Perry, Sanchez revisit old jabs

Governor candidates scuffle on taxes, rip each other's records

By Ken Herman


Friday, October 25, 2002

DALLAS -- One last time, with a tad less octane, Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez met on statewide television Thursday night and portrayed each other as unfit for public office.

The debate showed shades of difference on major topics, though neither candidate offered comprehensive solutions on issues such as the state's looming budget crisis.

Both expressed confidence, without offering much concrete evidence, that the 2003 Legislature will be able to write a state budget without raising taxes despite a projected shortfall of at least $5 billion.

"I think it's irresponsible to talk about new taxes before we have an opportunity to go in and find the inefficiencies in our government, find the waste in our government," said Sanchez. "My opponent is the only one I've ever heard say that government does not waste money."

Perry, characteristically, talked about his government experience that began in the Texas House in 1985.

"I've balanced five state budgets before. I've been there before when we had to work on our state budget," he said.

Sanchez, calling up an oft-used line, questioned Perry's experience.

"If he had so much experience, why do we have all of these problems? It seems to me that, you know, we cannot afford any more of Rick Perry's experience," he said.

Sanchez also took the offensive when Perry voiced mild support for Steven Wayne Smith, a Republican candidate for Texas Supreme Court who has said affirmative action programs put unqualified minority students in top state universities.

Perry said he disagreed "strongly" with Smith's comments and said, "I support the Republican ticket, but there are just parts of it that I'm rooting for harder than others."

Sanchez, who supports affirmative action, criticized Perry because "he will not tell you that he is not going to support (Smith) for those outrageous statements."

Inevitably, the candidates bickered about drug money that allegedly passed through the Sanchez-controlled Tesoro Savings & Loan in Laredo in the early 1980s. Nobody at the institution was ever charged with wrongdoing.

"I have an opponent who has become obsessed with this issue," said Sanchez, who appeared agitated when questioned about the bank's dealings.

Perry said, "The facts of the matter are that Mr. Sanchez's bank allowed millions of dollars to come in, in cash, in suitcases."

Both candidates also defended the aggressive ad campaigns they've run. Sanchez said his ads have been truthful.

"I have simply been talking about his record. It is not a record that anybody should be proud of. It's a negative record," he said.

Perry defended his record and accused Sanchez of attacking public schools.

The shades of differences on issues showed up in a discussion of a proposed overhaul of the state's business tax system that currently allows many large businesses to skirt the franchise tax.

"We don't need to expand the franchise tax into new areas, but those individuals who are not paying their fair share in the state of Texas need to pay it, period," said Perry.

Sanchez offered himself as a willing listener on the topic.

"You know, as Texans, as Americans, we're paying so much already in taxes. It really worries me to talk about added burdens for the people of Texas," he said.

Prodded for his bottom-line position on expanding the franchise tax, Sanchez said, "What I said is that I would look at it and I would lean toward doing that, but I need to be very careful; I'm going to look at it. I want to be careful."

The candidates also offered a snapshot of their differences on the question of reforming a civil justice system that some Texas businesses believe paints a target on them. Perry, heavily supported by Texas businesses, called for limits to end "outrageous awards" approved in some trials.

"They're trying to limit the frivolous lawsuits," Perry said of supporters of tort reform. "Day in and day out it's those frivolous lawsuits that are driving the costs . . . whether it's homeowners insurance or whether it's medical malpractice insurance in the state of Texas."

Sanchez, backed by plaintiffs' lawyers, said Perry hadn't answered the question. Sanchez then went on to discuss government spending.

The candidates' thrust and parry extended to discussion of Sanchez's campaign spending, which already tops $55 million.

"I know every penny that's been spent in this campaign," Sanchez said in response to a question about how he can claim to keep state spending under control when he has spent so generously on his own political aspirations.

Replied Perry, "Never in the history of American politics has a candidate spent so much money and said so little" and accused Sanchez of trying to buy a government job.

Thursday's debate, televised statewide, was the second and final face-to-face meeting between the two candidates who have spent months and millions of dollars slamming each other.

kherman@statesman.com; 445-1718

Sanchez-Perry clash sends sparks flying 

By Peggy Fikac Express-News Austin Bureau 10/25/2002 12:00 AM 

DALLAS Insults flew as GOP Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Tony Sanchez debated Thursday, with the incumbent pressed to defend his record and the challenger having to explain actions including his Vietnam-era draft deferment.

Typical of the hard-fought race, each threw in zingers throughout the evening.

"Never in the history of American politics has a candidate spent so much and said so little," Perry said.

Sanchez sought to turn Perry's experience in office around on him, citing high insurance rates and an education system Sanchez contends is shortchanging children.

"We cannot afford any more of Rick Perry's experience," Sanchez. said.

Sanchez was asked about the draft deferment he received in the late 1960s while earning bachelor's and law degrees at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

According to records, Sanchez was reclassified 1-A in November 1968, making him eligible to be drafted. His appeal of that classification was rejected in January 1969.

He was asked by a reporter on the debate panel whether he would release his law school records to show why he lost his deferment.

"I had a deferment, as you can imagine millions of students all over the nation had student deferments," Sanchez said.

"When I got through with law school, I took my physical, I passed it. I was ready to be drafted. I was not called up. I don't think that my records have any bearing on that."

Asked why he lost his deferment, Sanchez said: "I don't recall."

Perry noted that he also has called on Sanchez, a multimillionaire, to release more complete income tax records in addition to the summary pages.

"I think the people of the state of Texas deserve a governor who is open and who is honest and who allows their past records to be scrutinized by the public," Perry said.

Perry, pressed to name three programs that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been in office, cited his work on a measure to overhaul workers' compensation as a lawmaker; streamlining the Texas Agriculture Department as commissioner; and as lieutenant governor and governor, said he was "very proud" of a student grant program and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

When it was suggested that those programs were produced by many people, Perry said: "The legislative process is exactly that where people work together, Republicans and Democrats alike."

He also defended his record vetoes, disputing contentions that he didn't work closely enough with lawmakers.

"The vast majority of the cases where the vetoes occurred, there were signals sent. In some, very strong signals," Perry said.

Sanchez criticized Perry for the vetoes, including two dealing with health care a Medicaid bill that the governor's critics say cost the state more than $400 million in federal funding, and another intended to speed up insurance payments to physicians.

"We can't continue to go on like this," Sanchez said. "We should be very worried that doctors are closing their offices."

Perry also was asked whether he would distance himself from Texas Supreme Court candidate Steven Wayne Smith, who has spoken against racial preferences in admissions by suggesting that they put minorities in schools where they shouldn't be.

"I disagree strongly with Mr. Smith's statement," he said.

Sanchez countered: "What he will not say is, he will not support this candidate who made those terrible remarks. Affirmative action is a good program if it's administered correctly."

Tucker Gibson, chairman of the political science department at Trinity University, said: "My sense was neither one of them really presented what some campaign consultant would call a governing vision."

Gibson said he was surprised that Perry went after Sanchez so harshly. Perry has been shown with a healthy lead in polls, though Sanchez discounts those numbers.

"I think Perry kind of overdid his effort to attack the character of Sanchez," Gibson said.

"I would have thought he would have moved into a very positive mode and not felt like he had to stand on Mr. Sanchez's toes to have to make points," he said.

The two candidates didn't disagree on everything, voicing similar views on the need to make changes in the business tax system to ensure that companies that presently escape the franchise tax by reorganizing help carry the tax burden.

Perry said companies should pay their fair share of taxes. Sanchez said he would lean toward making changes but that the idea first should be closely studied.

Asked if he would support expanding the franchise tax, Sanchez said: "I would look at it, and I would lean toward doing that. I'm going to be careful."

"I think we've got to look at that very carefully and make sure that burden of the tax does not cause unemployment" by causing businesses to fold, Sanchez said.

Perry said companies in Texas "taking advantage" should be paying their fair share.

"The franchise tax in the state of Texas needs to be fair," he said.

"Those individuals who are not paying their fair share in the state of Texas need to pay it, period."


Express-News panel of experts gives edge to governor

By Sherry Sylvester San Antonio Express-News Web Posted : 10/25/2002 12:00 AM 

DALLAS In their final face-off, Gov. Rick Perry and his Democratic opponent Tony Sanchez pulled no punches, each charging the other with making empty promises and dishonest advertising.

The San Antonio Express-News panel of debate experts gave Perry a slight edge in the second matchup, citing the governor's adept handling of state issues and his ability to point to specifics throughout the hourlong exchange.

"Perry is a better debater," said Emilio Nicolas, vice president and general manager of Telemundo in San Antonio. "When it comes to style and polish, Perry has it."

Trinity debate coach Frank Harrison agreed.

"Perry won only because, overall, he demonstrated a greater specific knowledge of the issues," Harrison said.

George Mclemore, a political communications professor at the University of Texas-Pan Am, said the governor's edge was minimal.

"There were no defining moments for either candidate this was a functional, but ultimately passionless debate," he said.

Debating experts contend that most of what audiences take away from political debates comes from non-verbal cues from the candidate the tone of voice, dress and style, pauses and emphasis all contribute or detract from the candidates' credibility.

In Thursday's debate, both candidates were seated, minimizing the differences in their stature and creating a more conversational tone.

Both candidates spoke cautiously with slow drawls, repeating similar themes and launching no new attacks.

Both Perry and Sanchez wore what has become the standard political debate uniform in Texas a dark blue suit and a red tie.

Mclemore believes average voters may have a hard time seeing big differences between the two candidates because of the Ping-Pong affect of big numbers throughout the debate millions lost in Medicaid funds, millions allocated for Texas highways, millions spent in campaign advertising.

"Most people's eyes just glaze over," Mclemore said.

The panel uniformly noted that Sanchez may have seriously undercut his credibility when he gave what Harrison called a "transparently false answer" regarding his draft status during the Vietnam war.

"I'm not sure that somebody's draft record is an important issue, but for Sanchez to say he didn't recall what happened was just not credible," Harrison said.

Perry's biggest gaff of the evening may have come when he was questioned about the 82 vetoes that he issued at the end of the 2001 legislative session.

"His responses to those veto questions about prompt pay and insurance issues lacked credibility," Nicolas said.

Sanchez repeated several themes throughout the debate, directly attacking Perry's honesty and leadership.

He charged that the governor is "obsessed" with the money-laundering allegations that have been leveled at Tesoro Savings and Loan which was owned by the Sanchez family during the 1990s.

Mclemore noted that Perry remained cool under those attacks, which is positive for a debater, but he said some voters might view that stance as cold or non-responsive.

No one on the panel believed either candidate swayed the undecided voters who are the target audience of debates late in the campaign.

"Ultimately, it's the passion of speakers that move people and neither of these men, in my judgment, showed real passion," Mclemore said.


Posted on Fri, Oct. 25, 2002 

Perry, Sanchez debate

Candidates clash over budget, vetoes, record campaign spending 

By JAY ROOT  Star-Telegram Austin Bureau 

DALLAS -Besides airing their well-worn attacks on each other's backgrounds, Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic businessman Tony Sanchez spent their last televised brawl clashing on the state budget shortfall, a slew of vetoes from last year and the unprecedented amount of money the two have spent trying to get elected.

The two candidates have shelled out a combined $75 million and the total is expected to approach $100 million by Election Day. Sanchez, a multimillionaire businessman from Laredo, was asked why he's willing to spend so much of his own money on the race. He has already spent about $60 million and is likely to drop plenty more by Nov. 5.

Sanchez called his spending "a good investment" made necessary by Perry's long tenure in government and better recognition among voters. He also tried to turn the issue into a positive by saying that it means there won't be any rich contributors asking him for favors.

"Nobody, no special group, no special interest, no insurance cronies, no insurance industry is ever going to own me," Sanchez said. "Nobody is going to own me."

Perry said Sanchez has wasted his money.

"Never in the history of American politics has a candidate spent so much money and said so little," Perry said. "The people of the state of Texas are looking for a governor that's got leadership, that's got experience and that's got vision, not someone who thinks that if they'll just spend enough money, that they can buy the governership of Texas."

With the backdrop of a $5 billion to $12 billion state budget shortfall, the candidates also talked about government spending. Each said the other had proposed way more than the state can pay for and both suggested that they could make up the red ink without a tax increase. Sanchez said he could save $500 million by copying a Medicaid automation program from Arkansas and said money could be saved by merging the Public Utility Commission with the Railroad Commission.

"My opponent is the only one I've ever heard say that government does not waste money," Sanchez said. "What we really need to do is find the waste and inefficiencies in the current budget."

Perry cited the roles he has played in balancing past budgets and noted that he has asked agency heads to identify $1 billion in savings ahead of the upcoming session of the Legislature.

"I've grown very confident that we'll have a budget that's balanced with no new taxes," the governor said.

The two candidates clashed over Republican Supreme Court candidate Steven Wayne Smith, whose controversial statements about affirmative action have led some in the GOP to distance themselves from him. Perry said as much in the debate, but wouldn't commit not to vote for him.

"I disagree strongly with Mr. Smith's statement, very strongly, as a matter of fact," Perry said. "I've said on more than one occasion I support the Republican ticket, but there are just parts of it that I'm rooting for harder than others."

Sanchez criticized Perry for not disowning Smith and spoke of his support for affirmative action.

"What he will not say is, he will not support this candidate who made those terrible remarks," Sanchez said.

Perry found himself on the defensive for his record 82 legislative vetoes last year. Responding to a question sent in via e-mail, Perry was asked why he didn't do a better job of communicating with lawmakers so he could avoid so many vetoes. Perry said lawmakers knew he had trouble with their bills but decided to send them to his desk anyway.

In one of several attacks on the governor's veto record, Sanchez criticized Perry for wiping out a bill aimed at reducing the amount of paperwork public school teachers have to fill out.

"He goes around the state campaigning and says, 'My gosh, I'm for the teachers,' " Sanchez said. "He vetoed a bill that's very important to them." Perry said the bill would have "taken away local control" from school districts and he proposed making new technology available to them to solve the paperwork problem.

Not surprisingly, both candidates blamed the other for the negative tone of the campaign. Sanchez, who has spent millions on attack ads, said he couldn't help it if his ads contained negative information about Perry.

"I can't characterize it as something positive if it is a negative record of nonaccomplishment," he said. "My ads have been truthful. They've been hard-hitting, certainly, but his ads have been very deceptive and very untruthful."

Perry characterized his negative ads as defensive.

"I'm not going to sit back and let anybody attack our children, attack our public schools and attack good programs," Perry said. "I'm going to stand up and I'm going to defend those."

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