A strange scene ensued after the lone governor’s debate in early October. Members of the media had not been allowed to watch the debate in person. We found ourselves contained in an impromptu pressroom in the foyer of a building in the Belo Corporation compound in downtown Dallas. The setup included an ample number of folding chairs and five TV sets of varying sizes scattered around the space. The presence of a podium suggested that the debaters would answer questions following the closing statements. Chris Bell was the first to arrive, followed by Kinky Friedman (who acknowledged a spotty performance by saying, “I still intend to vote for myself”); next to appear, based on the arrival of several of his staffers, would be Rick Perry, and then finally Carole Keeton Strayhorn. But Perry never showed up. Instead, a spokesman went to the podium to read a statement claiming victory, while a state senator stood by to answer questions. My brethren did not respond well to being stood up. “Where’s Rick Perry?” various reporters shouted. “Where’s the governor?” The spokesman, grinning all the while, relishing every moment, ignored the questions and kept reading. Reporters continued to shout. Mutual hostility saturated the air.
As it turned out, the candidates were not obligated to answer questions. Their decision to appear was optional, so Perry was within his rights to vacate the premises. Still, it seemed like an odd decision. When he first became a major figure in Texas politics, during his successful 1998 race for lieutenant governor