AUSTIN, Texas –Today, in a scene that more closely resembled a campaign rally than a criminal proceeding, Governor Rick Perry arrived at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center in downtown Austin for fingerprinting and booking photos. Perry was indicted last Friday on two counts related to his veto of funding for the Public Integrity Unit (PIU), after the Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for DWI with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit and was captured on video being belligerent and aggressive to law enforcement officers.
Several Republican campaigns and Republican groups like the Austin Young Republicans had posted on Facebook and Twitter yesterday encouraging their followers to come and show their support of the Governor. Senator John Cornyn’s campaign manager, Brendan Steinhauser, created a Facebook event with all the details, inviting supporters to “stand in solidarity with Governor Perry today.” As Perry arrived shortly after 5 p.m., about a hundred supporters–waving posters and chanting “Perry! Perry!”–and seemingly as many television cameras awaited him. Counter protesters were all but absent, with this reporter only observing two women with small anti-Perry signs and hearing one man’s voice possibly yelling something critical.
Perry walked through the crowd and delivered brief remarks from a podium. The governor echoed his confident tone from his press conference the day after the indictments, calling the indictments an abuse of power and vowing that he would prevail. “I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law,” said Perry. “I’m going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, but right. This indictment is nothing short of an attack on the Constitutional powers of the Office of Governor…and I will not allow this attack on our system of government to stand.” Perry then went inside the Justice Center for the booking procedures.
Perry’s mugshot is already making the rounds on social media. The photogenic governor is pictured with his hair neatly combed, a sharp dark suit and cornflower blue tie, and a subtle smile, but without the glasses that have become a recent trademark for him.
After the booking procedures were complete, Perry returned to greet the crowd of supporters for some additional remarks. He began by thanking the Travis County Sheriff’s Department for their “courtesy and professionalism” in working with him. He then again reemphasized his will to fight the charges and confidence in the final outcome. “This indictment is fundamentally a political act that seeks to achieve at the courthouse what could not be achieved at the ballot box,” said Perry. “”The actions that I took were lawful, they were legal, and they were proper.”
Earlier in the day, Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, had released a hard-hitting video defending him that received a positive reception from political observers for its aggressive stance. Republican operative and commentator Matt Mackowiak commented that the video was “another indication that the Perry team intends to win the PR battle in addition to the legal battle.”
The confident PR strategy of the Perry team was seen in action immediately after he left the Justice Center. Perry stopped at Sandy’s Hamburgers in South Austin for some ice cream, and posted a picture on Twitter, along with a cheerful message, “And then, ice cream cone at Sandy’s.”
Sarah Elizabeth Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.