AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Governor Rick Perry told a conservative conference on Friday that he is a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the AFL-CIO labor union, as part of a larger discussion about successful Republican messaging strategies.
Perry made the comments as one of the keynote speakers at the closing lunch at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) annual Policy Orientation for the Texas Legislature conference, where he was joined by former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore.
Widely assumed to be preparing for a second Presidential campaign, Perry spoke about reaching out to groups that historically have not voted for Republicans. Perry said that, like Ronald Reagan, he had been able to win votes and endorsements from the Teamsters, because of his efforts to reach out on economic issues that connected with their members.
Perry then mentioned that he still has an AFL-CIO membership. Reminding the audience that he used to be a Democrat, Perry said that he had joined the AFL-CIO and had maintained his membership, joking that the union may not like it when they receive his dues payment.
Perry continued, saying that he kept his union membership because he felt that the economic and job creation issues were critical to political success for conservatives, and he was not willing to cede those votes. “When you reach out the Teamsters and you talk about job creation, when you talk to a young Hispanic family…about why their future looks so bright…about where their children are going to go to college, because of policies that you as Republicans put in place in this state,” then that is a winning message.
Republicans should not focus on the social issues that can divide people, but instead hit the issues that “touch people’s hearts…regardless of where you’re from or what your political affiliation may have used to have been.” Perry advocated emphasizing Republican policies that make Americans think about “a future where my family has a better future,” communicated in a passionate, compassionate way. “That ought to be our goal, to talk to people reasonably” about these issues, said Perry.
Perry later mentioned the union issue again later during the discussion, when talking about what he thinks the priorities should be for the new Republican-controlled Congress. Among the top issues on his list was opening the Keystone XL pipeline. “Let [Obama] explain to his Teamsters supporters,” why he would kill those jobs by killing the pipeline, said Perry. “Let the President explain that.”
[Disclosure: Sarah Rumpf was previously employed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.]
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