WASHINGTON, D.C. — Conservatives concerned about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Democratic past may have one less reason to worry. From Perry’s past comes a crucial rebellion: a vote against a Democrat’s proposal to sanction Apartheid-era South Africa.
In 1985, another member of Perry’s former party put forth an amendment in the Texas State Legislature that would have outlawed the state’s investments in the South African government. South Africa had been widely condemned for its vicious racial segregation, and economic sanctions were considered a popular — and ultimately successful weapon — against its Apartheid government.
As proposed, the rule was explicit: “Investments of the Permanent University Fund and other funds available for investment may not be invested directly in the Republic of South Africa.”
The amendment was killed, with state Rep. Perry voting with the majority, according to Texas Legislature voting records.
A subsequent bill included a similar amendment to ban state investments in any business incorporated in South Africa. Again, Perry voted against the measure. That measure ultimately passed.
A recent Washington Post exposè has provoked an examination of Perry’s handling of race issues. The Post reported that the Perry family had leased a hunting camp with the name “Niggerhead” emblazoned on a rock. Perry has insisted that the name had been painted over as soon as his father leased the property. But the paper found Perry associates that countered the GOP presidential candidate’s claim.
Other incidents in Perry’s past have caused controversy in his home state, whether it was standing up for an underling who was accused of using the n-word during a meeting, or referring to immigrants as “Jose” during a press conference.
Perry’s vote against a Texas ban on investments in Apartheid-era South Africa, amongst these incidents, has led some to accuse Perry of insensitivity on race issues.
Peck Young, director of Austin Community College’s Center for Public Policy and Political Studies and a former political consultant, explained Perry’s vote.
“I wish I could say Perry was unique,” said Young. “The conservative Democrats weren’t going to vote for that stuff because, for one thing, Texas had major financial activities in South Africa, and Texas in terms of its business attitudes was a conservative state … He was voting like every other right-wing Democrat and Republican.”
In this case, a Democratic Perry fell to the right of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The president favored a watered-down, limited set of sanctions against the Apartheid regime. Members of Perry’s own party in Texas Congress pushed for a far more stringent embargo.
Perry’s campaign spokesperson did not return a request for comment.