Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Rick Perry tapped to head agency he would eliminate if he could remember the name

Donald Trump wants Rick Perry to run an agency the former Texas governor would eliminate if he could only remember its name.

Trump’s latest appointment is an insult to our functioning democracy.

Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do, so Trump might as well just lock the doors for four years.

This isn’t leadership by Trump, it’s a reckless, dangerous decision that proves he has little interest in a functioning government and every interest in propping up his fossil fuel billionaire buddies.

Perry’s clear financial interests in major energy projects like the Dakota Access pipeline make it obvious that there’s no way he could manage the agency’s activities impartially.

His ideological obsession with promoting dirty fossil fuels and ignoring the climate crisis means he is just as unfit for this position as the other climate deniers Trump is promoting for key posts.

Americans didn’t vote for more fossil fuels, more drilling and fracking, and more pollution, but that’s what we’re getting with Perry and Trump. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for communities across the nation and oppose this nomination.

Rick Perry exits the 2016 presidential race

Rick Perry’s political career ended with a whimper, a remarkable if predictable fall for the longest-serving governor in Texas history and a leader many considered the Republican Party’s savior just four years ago.

History may judge it an end sealed back in 2011, when Perry froze on a debate stage and tried to recover with an embarrassed “oops.” Others may remember the former governor with the movie-star looks and resume to match as Donald Trump’s first political victim.

Perry all but declared war on the billionaire businessman in July, calling Trump “a cancer on conservatism” who could destroy the Republican Party. On Friday night, Trump’s campaign was soaring while Perry was pulling out of the race for the White House.

More than a dozen major Republican candidates remain in the 2016 field, yet Trump’s dominance is suffocating his rivals. In still-early polls, the real-estate mogul and realty TV star has more support that the once-top-tier trio of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio combined.

In second, by the way, is another political rookie: retired surgeon Ben Carson.

“There is no play in the playbook for where we are right now,” said John Jordan, a California winery owner and major Republican fundraiser. “Donors don’t know what to think. Nobody saw the Trump phenomenon coming. Probably a lot of Jeb donors wish they had their money back.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put it a different way on Twitter after Perry’s exit: “What does it say about GOP when a 3 & half term Gov w/ a successful record of creating jobs bows out as a reality star leads in the polls?”

Perry was more gracious as he surprised a gathering of social conservatives in St. Louis by announcing his departure.

“We have a tremendous field of candidates – probably the greatest group of men and women,” Perry said. “I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to that cause of conservatism. If we do that, then our party will be in good hands.”

Perry also made several sly references to Trump, offering a last warning of sorts to a GOP experiencing its most serious identity crisis in a generation. Trump may favor tax increases on the rich, once supported abortion rights, given money to Hillary Rodham Clinton and said kind things about government-run health care in other countries, but he’s become the GOP’s unquestioned presidential front-runner.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who took the stage in St. Louis after Perry, said Trump’s ability to command media attention puts other candidates at a distinct disadvantage.

“I think in many ways it doesn’t change the big picture,” Huckabee said of Perry’s exit, “but it does show that with this many candidates on the stage, it’s very, very difficult to get noticed.”

Added Huckabee, “The rules right now are not really favoring the challenger candidates.”

That included Perry, who had stopped paying most of his campaign staff in recent weeks because he couldn’t raise the money. While his allies at three super PACs are sitting on a small fortune devoted to his White House bid, they couldn’t share that money with his campaign – or coordinate their activities with it.

Austin Barbour, a leader of the pro-Perry super PACs, said the groups have as much as $13 million in the bank. He planned to talk Saturday morning with lawyers to “see what the law says we can do with this money.”

After that, and following consultation with the donors, he said, “we will see if we want the super PAC to move in another direction, or if we give it back.”

Perry was quickly praised by his Republican competitors, who publicly and privately began courting his political network. In a statement, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign called Perry “a proud veteran who bravely served our nation” and “an extraordinary governor of Texas.”

A person close to the Cruz campaign, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, says the fellow Texan’s camp will be “immediately” reaching out to Perry donors and supporters. “If we don’t jump in, other campaigns are going to try to,” the person said.

Cruz feels that Perry’s exit will make it easier to attract top Texas donors who hadn’t otherwise contributed to the senator, because they didn’t want to be seen as publicly choosing sides against Perry, the person said. It also may make the March 1 Texas primary “a lot cleaner,” since Cruz will be the clear home-state choice.

Meanwhile, Trump spent his Friday basking on “The Tonight Show.” As his appearance drew to a close, host Jimmy Fallon proposed a new campaign song for Trump to consider, an anthem by DJ Khaled called “All I Do Is Win.”

“What do you think?” asked Fallon.

“Honestly,” Trump beamed, “it happens to be 100 percent true.”

Walker falls below the fray of Fox News debate, Kasich rises above it

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s analysis of the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign ran under the headline “Scott Walker sticks to script, delivers safe, quiet performance.” That was the best the newspaper, which has mostly supported Walker over the course of his career, could say with accuracy about his appearance on Aug. 6 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena with nine other GOP hopefuls.

For the millions of viewers who were glimpsing Walker for the first time during the Fox News debate, Walker’s performance must have been baffling. Positioned by his handlers as a shoot-from-the-hip union-buster who exudes such charm that even Wisconsin Democrats support him in significant numbers, Walker failed to make good on that image. In fact, flanked by larger-than-life and more seasoned candidates, Walker was practically invisible. His supporters said he rose above the fray, but he really shrank beneath it.

Walker was genial and at ease — an “aw, shucks” kind of guy who loves his Harley. He effectively brandished his conservative bona fides and spun his biggest failures as governor — creating jobs, raising the quality of life for everyone in the state — as triumphs. He got in a couple of zingers at Hillary Clinton’s expense — red meat for the Fox crowd.

But he said very little, and nothing that Wisconsinites haven’t heard many times before. The candidates were given 60 seconds to answer questions, but Walker often took even less than that paltry amount of time to answer. The Journal Sentinel reported that Walker spoke less than 40 seconds during the first 30 minutes of the debate and only six minutes in total.

Perhaps that wise, given his prior gaffes. But his relative obscurity during the event should take a toll on his polling numbers.

The morning after the debate, one of Walker’s PACs announced a $7-million buy for advertising in Iowa, which is a must-win for him. Did his campaign realized his debate performance would not generate any momentum?

Fox News deserves a lot of credit for delivering an innovative and lively debate format. Each candidate got a TV commercial-style moment, but the commentators asked tough questions and encouraged candidates to mix it up. Chris Christie, who performed above expectations, had an entertaining and substantive give-and-take over NSA spying with Rand Paul, whose quirky libertarian ideology stuck out like a his hair.

Like Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had a lot riding on his performance. He needed to live up to his standing in the polls and show why Republican leaders are behind him. Visibly nervous during the first hour, he found his stride in the second, delivering a thoughtful answer about his brother’s rush to war in Iraq and standing firm on his call for immigration reform. He was not, however, the star of the evening.

That honor goes to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, followed closely by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Kasich has the strongest qualifications for the presidency of anyone on stage, and he listed them with appealing humility. He generated the biggest cheer of the evening with a touching answer to a question about whether he would accept his daughter if she came out to him as gay.  He was as calm and authentic as neuro-surgeon Ben Carson, but far more knowledgeable and articulate. The baby-faced Rubio was all polish and poise, with an appealing personal narrative.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who appeared during a boring afternoon forum for the second-tier candidates, was the clear star of that event. Authoritative, articulate and, well, supremely business-like, she easily rose above Rick Perry at his best and Lindsey Graham at his scariest, as he all but promised another war in the Middle East if elected.

The glaring loser of the evening debate was front-runner Donald Trump, who was only effective at portraying an emperor with no clothes. Seemingly angry at life itself, his acid tongue wandered all over the nation’s issues without ever offering a plan to change all the wrongs he enumerated. He admitted to building his real estate empire in part by paying off lawmakers, as if that was beneficial experience for a president.  

It’s hard to imagine that he’ll be front and center at the next debate.

GOP rivals prepared to debate Donald Trump

 Considered the ultimate wildcard, Donald Trump is complicating debate strategy for Republican presidential candidates now scrambling to prepare for their first face-to-face meeting on national television.

The billionaire businessman, who has dominated the 2016 Republican race in recent weeks, threatens to do the same when the top 10 GOP candidates — as determined by national polls — face off in less than two weeks. It’s a high-risk, high-reward event for candidates eager to stand out yet wary to fall victim to one of Trump’s notorious bombastic political attacks.

“It’s the No. 1 unavoidability,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a 2012 GOP candidate who had a knack for standing out in debates four years ago.

“Do not try to match him in anger and in aggressiveness. It’s not possible,” Gingrich warned Trump’s rivals. “He’s a very instinctively aggressive guy, and if you try to dance with him on his strengths he’ll run over you.”

Despite his longshot status, the reality television star has commanded attention and seen his poll numbers rise after firing off provocative comments about immigrants, his presidential rivals and critics in both parties.

His supporters love him because he’s willing to say what others only think. But that makes him dangerous in a debate setting, says Charlie Black, a leading GOP strategist who has worked on multiple presidential campaigns.

“Just try to ignore him,” Black said. “The less attention you give him the better. I wouldn’t even look at him.”

That’s easier said than done in a nationally televised program where Trump is sure to play a central role — literally, perhaps, if he’s positioned at the center of the stage as the leader in recent polls.

Count former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as among the candidates eager for a showdown, although he may not qualify for the Aug. 6 meeting in Cleveland. Only the top 10 candidates in national polling will be allowed on stage. With 16 declared candidates, several high-profile Republicans will be left out. Perry is on the bubble.

“If Donald Trump wants to sit on the stage and talk about solutions, I’m going to be happy to have that conversation,” Perry said on Fox News. “But if all he’s going to do is throw invectives, then I’m going to push back and I’m going to push back hard.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told The Associated Press that he’s ready to be tested.

“You have to be able to stand your ground,” Paul said, because politics is “somewhat of a body combat sport.”

Even without Trump’s emergence, the first debate promises to be an unruly affair.

Never have more than 10 candidates taken the stage for a televised Republican presidential debate. Part of the problem is basic math.

In a 90-minute debate featuring so many candidates, there could be only enough time for four or five questions — with little time left over for the interaction between candidates that makes for an actual debate.

And few campaigns expect Trump to respect the time limits or other rules established by organizers.

While there were some rumblings about trying to bar Trump from the stage, some GOP leaders say they’re happy about Trump’s participation, predicting it will attract a far larger audience, exposing new people to Republican ideas.

“If I were Fox, I would be thrilled that Trump has made this so intense so early because they’ll have a much higher viewership than they would have three or four weeks ago before Trump got on a roll,” Gingrich said.

Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney who is supporting Jeb Bush, said Trump offers a prime-time opportunity to lesser-known candidates to get attention.

“I think they have to pick a fight with Trump,” Kaufman said.

Many candidates have already been hard at work. Bush, one of the top contenders, recently brought in two veterans of Romney’s 2012 campaign, Beth Myers and Peter Flaherty, to help coach him. Aides say Bush will fill much of his schedule next week with debate preparation in Florida.

Bush has not participated in a debate as a candidate since his successful re-election campaign for governor in 2002.

“My objective with this is to, wherever I can, share my record,” Bush said this week in South Carolina. He said he’ll go into the debate without thinking about Trump or any rival but that it’s his first presidential debate and he’s “not certain how all this plays out.”

Paul perhaps summed up the field’s feeling best when asked how he prepares to face someone like Trump: “Very carefully,” he said.

Protected by massive police escort, Trump travels to border, proclaims Mexicans love him

Ever sure of himself, Donald Trump paid a visit to the Mexico border Thursday and predicted Hispanics would love him — “they already do” — because as president he’d grab jobs back from overseas and give more opportunity to those who live in the U.S. legally.

“There’s great danger with the illegals,” the Republican presidential contender told reporters. But he claimed a “great relationship” with Hispanics, even as Latino leaders have come at him with blistering criticism for his painting Mexican immigrants as criminals.

“I’ll take jobs back from China, I’ll take jobs back from Japan,” Trump said. “The Hispanics are going to get those jobs, and they’re going to love Trump.”

The in-and-out border visit came as Trump continued to dominate attention in the GOP presidential race, to the growing exasperation of his rivals. Campaigning in Gorham, New Hampshire, Jeb Bush offered a distinctly different message in the immigration debate — and spoke partly in Spanish.

“A Republican will never be elected president of the United States again unless we campaign like this,” Bush said, gesturing with open arms.

“Unless we campaign openly — where we campaign in every nook and cranny of this country, where we go campaign in the Latino communities, fast-growing communities all across this country that will make a difference in who the next president is going to be.”

Trump, a businessman and reality TV host, set up a dramatic scene in advance of his own campaign trip, saying he was putting himself in “great danger” by coming to the border area across from the volatile Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo. But, he said, “I have to do it. I have to do it.”

As he spoke to reporters with his back to the out-of-sight Rio Grande, a huge stream of transport trucks inched peacefully from the Mexican side onto the World Trade Bridge and into Texas at a bustling commercial hub routinely visited by officials. Trump traveled in a massive police-escorted motorcade on roads closed for his entourage.

A local border patrol union pulled out of events involving him. Patrol agents had planned to accompany Trump to the border and hold a meeting with him but canceled after consultations with their national union, the National Border Patrol Council, said Hector Garza, president of Local 2455.

Trump stepped off his plane in Laredo and said the union members backed out because they were “petrified and they’re afraid of saying what’s happening” at the border. Dozens of people were on hand, a mix of protesters and supporters.

Some chanted “fuera,” telling him to get out; a supporter waved a sign, “no era insulto,” meaning his remarks about immigrants that touched off a feud with Republican rivals were not an insult.

His visit drew strong reaction from some residents of Laredo, which has an overwhelmingly Hispanic population.

Pedro Omar Castillo, 72, suggested that Trump needs the growing Hispanic vote to be successful in 2016. “But he’s not going to get it because of his words,” Castillo said in Spanish as he walked through a downtown park. “He is a racist.”

But Karina Villalba, 26, waited for Trump at the airport and held a sign saying “I heard your speech & I am NOT offended.”

A Hispanic oil-field worker, she said she appreciates Trump’s in-your-face tone. “Sometimes honesty hurts,” she said.

Trump roiled the presidential race weeks ago when he branded Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, sparking a feud with his GOP rivals that intensified after his dismissive comments about Arizona Sen. John McCain’s military service in the Vietnam War.

From party heavyweights like former Bush to newcomers to the national scene like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Trump’s rivals face his tactics of calling out his critics by name, vilifying the GOP establishment and injecting inflammatory rhetoric into the immigration debate.

In Washington on Wednesday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry denounced Trump’s campaign as a “cancer on conservatism” and a “barking carnival act” in a speech that defined “Trumpism” as “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

Indeed, the insults flying between Trump and his rivals have been caustic. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday, “The only way we’re going to be able to lose the election is continue to say things like Donald Trump is saying.”

“I think he’s sort of a political car wreck where people slow down and watch,” Graham told MSNBC.

Walker has kept his distance from the war over Trump, possibly because he’s afraid of offending Trump’s supporters.

Associated Press writers Calvin Woodward and Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report from Washington.

Did Donald Trump go too far today by trashing John McCain’s military service?

Donald Trump has soared to the top of Republican presidential polls for his brash rhetoric, particularly his assertion that Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists.

But today he might have gone too far for his right-wing supporters by shooting down Arizona Sen. John McCain over his military service.

Trump has an ongoing feud with McCain, who won the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, over their differences on immigration. Today, during a question-and-answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Trump questioned McCain’s iconic reputation as a war hero.

“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured.”

CNN reported that “the comments met with a mix of gasps, boos, laughter and some applause from an audience.”

But many of Trump’s GOP competitors condemned the remark, with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling on the temperamental real estate mogul to drop out of the race.

While serving as a Naval pilot in 1967, McCain was shot down over North Vietnam. He fractured both arms and legs, permanently losing some mobility.

McCain was imprisoned in the notoriously brutal “Hanoi Hilton” detention camp for more than five years, where he was repeatedly tortured and spent two years in solitary confinement. McCain was offered — but refused — early release after his captors found out that McCain’s father was a Navy admiral.

Meanwhile, Trump received four student deferments to avoid going to Vietnam before he finally obtained a medical deferment in 1968 that kept him out of the service for the rest of the war. The deferment was for a spur in Trump’s foot.

Perry issued a statement after the conservative Christian summit saying, “I respect Sen. McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump. His comments have reached a new low in American politics.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Trump’s comments were “disqualifying.”

Other GOP hopefuls also condemned the remark, which Trump quickly tried to walk back. But he did not apologize.

In fact, the Trump campaign issued a statement that read: “Note, Mr. Trump left to a long lasting standing ovation, which will be by far the biggest ovation of the weekend, and much congratulatory praise.”

Pundits will be watching closely the effect of Trump’s remarks on his polling numbers in coming days. So will Republican leaders who are terrified that Trump’s outlandish behavior will tarnish their brand in next year’s presidential election.

Hispanic leaders bristling at GOP’s tepid response to Trump’s racism

Hispanic leaders are bristling at the largely tepid response by Republican presidential candidates to Donald Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers.

Several 2016 contenders have brushed off Trump’s comments while others have ignored them. Marco Rubio, a Florida senator who is Hispanic, denounced them as “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive,” after declining for two weeks to address the matter directly. Another Hispanic in the race, Ted Cruz, said Trump is “terrific,” “brash” and “speaks the truth.”

It’s an uncomfortable moment for Republicans, who want more votes from the surging Latino population.

And it could be a costly moment if more candidates don’t go beyond their “Donald-will-be-Donald” response and condemn him directly, said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership.

“The time has come for the candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless and insulting,” Aguilar said. “Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters. It’s a level of idiocy I haven’t seen in a long time.”

So far, Trump has paid less of a political price than a commercial one.

The leading Hispanic television network, Univision, has backed out of televising the Miss USA pageant, a joint venture between Trump and NBC, which also cut ties with Trump. The Macy’s department store chain, which carried a Donald Trump menswear line, said it was ending its relationship with him. Other retailers are facing pressure to follow suit.

The NASCAR motorsports series said it will not hold its season-ending awards ceremony at the Trump National Doral Miami. The CEO of a top NASCAR sponsor, Camping World’s Marcus Lemonis, had said he would not participate in the awards ceremony if it were held at a property owned by Trump, whom he criticized for “recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments … in regards to immigrants.”

In his speech last month marking his entry into the Republican race, Trump said Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The businessman has refused to back down, although he insists his remarks were misconstrued.

“My statements have been contorted to seem racist and discriminatory,” he wrote in a message to supporters. “What I want is for legal immigrants to not be unfairly punished because others are coming into America illegally, flooding the labor market and not paying taxes.”

His original comments, though, did not make a distinction between Mexicans who came to U.S. legally and those here illegally.

His rhetoric may resonate with some of the Republican Party’s most passionate voters, who have long viewed illegal immigration as one of the nation’s most pressing problems. But the 2016 contest brings opportunity for the party to make inroads with Hispanics, with several Latino candidates and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has deep Latino ties and speaks Spanish, which he hasn’t been shy about using in the campaign.

Even so, Bush has said little more about Trump’s comments than that they were “wrong.”

“Maybe we’ll have a chance to have an honest discussion about it onstage,” Bush said while campaigning in Nevada, referring to Republican presidential debates.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, is paying keen attention to how the candidates respond to Trump’s “xenophobic rhetoric.”

“We’re listening very, very closely, not just what candidates say but what they don’t say — the sins of commission and the sins of omission,” he said.

Among 2016 contenders:

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Trump’s comments “wholly inappropriate.” But in a subsequent radio interview, he said Trump is “a really wonderful guy (who’s) always been a good friend.”

• Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said: “I don’t think Donald Trump’s remarks reflect the Republican Party.”

• Cruz said he likes Trump and thinks NBC “is engaging in political correctness” in breaking ties with him.

• Rubio said the next president “needs to be someone who brings Americans together — not someone who continues to divide.”

• Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former technology executive Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have been silent.

Not since the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush has a Republican presidential candidate earned as much as 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney got a dismal 27 percent in the 2012 contest against President Barack Obama.

Money, that’s what they want | 2016ers try political alchemy to turn emails into cash

When it comes to raising money by email, everybody’s got an angle. Some of the “ask” strategies being employed by the 2016 presidential candidates:


Who doesn’t love a shot at winning something? Ted Cruz invited supporters to “come shooting with me.” It was free to enter the contest to win a shooting outing with the Texas senator, but Cruz told supporters: “After you’ve entered, make a generous Shoot With Ted contribution of $35, $50, $100 or more to my campaign.” Jeb Bush threw a $3 contest promising that three winners would get a photo of Bush and his father “battling it out on the tennis court,” signed by both the candidate and the former president.


Tuesday’s end-of-quarter fundraising deadline is the real deal. The candidates all have to report how much cash they’ve raised during the quarter and then face judgment on what those numbers say about their viability. But, hey, why wait for a real deadline when you can make up one? Marco Rubio’s campaign urged supporters to help raise $44,000 in a day in honor of his 44th birthday. Columba Bush asked people to contribute to her husband in the first 24 hours of his campaign because “everyone is watching to see how much support we have out the gate.”


Republican candidates turned last week’s Supreme Court rulings in support of the president’s health care law and same-sex marriage into a barrage of fundraising emails. One Rand Paul subject line on the health care ruling: “I’m afraid this is bad news, Fellow Conservative.” Rick Santorum took aim at the gay marriage ruling in a fundraising email urging supporters to help rescue America because “the relentless liberal agenda knows no pause.” $100, please.


Candidates trot out glowing endorsements from spouses and kids to gin up cash. Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, told supporters: “He’s the most principled man I’ve ever known” — and please donate to “have a front row seat to history.”


Republicans love to convert press coverage that they consider unfavorable into cash. Rubio turned a story about the parking tickets his family had incurred into a lament over the “silly season” in politics and a plea for donations to help stay focused on “what really matters.” Because nothing focuses the mind, apparently, like money.


Big contributions are nice, but the little ones add up — and can say something about the depth of support for a candidate. Bernie Sanders made a decidedly lowball pitch as a way of making a statement in his Democratic campaign. “Stand up to the Super PAC attacking us by making a $3 contribution to our campaign today, and send a powerful message that you have had enough of the billionaire class buying elections,” he wrote.


Sometimes, it’s nice to check in with supporters without hitting them up for cash. Supporters are more likely to keep opening a candidate’s emails if it’s not always about the money. There’s no purchase necessary to enter Hillary Rodham Clinton’s contest to win dinner with the Democratic candidate, for example. And Carly Fiorina’s campaign sent out a chatty email from her friend and former business colleague Deb Bowker describing the Republican candidate as “a strong, determined, optimistic woman with a heart filled with a passion for service.” There’s no “ask” in either email. But recipients will surely be hearing more.

Clinton: Why are Republicans so afraid of letting people vote?

Hillary Rodham Clinton accused potential Republican presidential rivals such as Jeb Bush of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin on Thursday of trying to make it more difficult for millions of Americans to vote, laying down an early marker on voting rights in her Democratic presidential campaign.

Clinton, in one of her most partisan speeches as a presidential candidate, directly criticized Walker, Bush and two other Republican presidential hopefuls, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

She described those current or former governors as members of a GOP vanguard that has made it more difficult for students to vote, cut the numbers of days set aside for early voting and demanded voter ID provisions.

“Today Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting,” Clinton said at historically black Texas Southern University. “What part of democracy are they afraid of? I believe every citizen has the right to vote and I believe we should do everything we can to make it easier for every citizen to vote.”

The issue is closely watched by black voters, who supported President Barack Obama by sweeping margins in 2008 and 2012 and will be an important constituency for Clinton to mobilize in next year’s election. She received an award named after Barbara Jordan, the late Texas congresswoman and civil rights leader, and the event came a little more than a week before Clinton is scheduled to deliver a major speech in New York that aides are billing as a formal campaign kickoff.

Directly challenging Republicans by name, which Clinton has largely avoided, she plunged into a partisan debate over voting rights that has roiled statehouses across the country. Democrats contend restricting voter access and registration purposely aims to suppress turnout among minority and low-income voters. Republicans say the voting changes are crucial to guard against voter fraud.

Under Walker, for example, Wisconsin requires proof of residency except for overseas and military voters. The state shortened the early voting period and increased residency requirements.

In a statement, Walker responded to the criticism leveled by the Democratic candidate: “Hillary Clinton’s rejection of efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat not only defies logic, but the will of the majority of Americans. Once again, Hillary Clinton’s extreme views are far outside the mainstream.”

Clinton said that in New Jersey, Christie had vetoed a bill to extend early voting. She said as Florida’s governor, Bush had conducted a “deeply flawed” purge of eligible voters, by having the names of people who were mistakenly thought to be felons removed from voting rolls.

Perry  approved laws in Texas that discriminated against minority voters, Clinton said.

Republicans, Clinton said, should “stop fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud and start explaining why they’re so scared of letting citizens have their say.”

Clinton said the U.S. should take dramatic steps to expand the right to vote, with universal, automatic voter registration for young people, and a new national standard of no fewer than 20 days of early, in-person voting, including weekend and evening voting.

In the home state of President Lyndon Johnson, architect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Clinton said the Supreme Court ruling had “eviscerated” the law, making it more likely that minority voters, the elderly and others would face consequences.

Democrats have signaled plans for a large-scale legal fight against new voter ID laws and efforts to curtail voting access. Party attorneys recently filed legal challenges to voting changes made by GOP lawmakers in the presidential battleground states of Ohio and Wisconsin.

One of the attorneys involved in the lawsuits is Marc Elias, a top elections lawyer for Democrats who is also serving as the Clinton campaign’s general counsel. The campaign is not officially involved in the lawsuits.