DALLAS -- U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison renewed her claims Tuesday that Gov. Rick Perry's decisions are too heavily influenced by lobbyists and that he fails to listen to ordinary Texans.
Speaking at a meeting of Dallas County Republican women, Hutchison resurrected the governor's failed attempt to require vaccinating sixth-grade girls against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Tuesday was the three-year anniversary of Perry's executive order, which eventually was overridden when the Legislature blocked state officials from requiring the shots for at least four years.
That moratorium expires next January, or in 342 days, 11 hours, and 43 minutes -- at least according to a countdown clock Tuesday that Hutchison has on her campaign Web site.
Perry's order outraged social conservatives who said it contradicted the state's abstinence-only education policy and trampled parental rights.
At the time of his order, Perry's former chief of staff was a lobbyist for the vaccine manufacturer, Merck and Co. Although the governor said he was "erring on the side or life" in issuing the order, a news release from the Hutchison campaign said "it looks like Perry was really erring on the side of Merck and their lobbyists."
"This mandate was driven by lobbyists and special interests in Austin," Hutchison said. "The only way to ensure that parental rights are not trampled to help out a lobbyist friend in Austin is to elect someone who will put Texans first."
The Republican gubernatorial primary is in one month. At a debate Friday among the three candidates, including GOP activist Debra Medina, Perry said his failed order was not a mistake.
"The Governor looked at this issue as protecting life and Senator Hutchison is pro choice," Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Hutchison has said she was opposes overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, but believes in parental consent for minors seeking abortions and her support for bans on late-term abortions.
The senator also said Perry, the state's longest-serving governor, has been in office too long. Every governor from Sam Houston to George W. Bush "put their stamp on our state, and they did it in eight years or less," she said.