ASPEN — Surging in recent national polls that show him at the top of a crowded field of Republican contenders hoping to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012, newly announced candidate Rick Perry flew into Aspen Thursday afternoon for a private fundraiser hosted by Colorado Republicans Marc and Kristen Holtzman. Less than two hours later, the three term Governor of Texas reboarded a private jet at the nearby Aspen airport and headed back to Denver for another $2500-per-person fundraiser. He was accompanied on the trip by well known Colorado energy exec Alex Cranberg, who was appointed by Perry a few months ago to a post on the board of regents at the University of Texas, and who was one of five co-hosts of the Centennial airport function later that evening.
Perry’s short side trip to the mountains that day netted the conservative candidate $175,000 for his campaign coffers — the most lucrative such event in the history of Republican politics in Pitkin County, according to a local and national source — and put him in front of a well-heeled Aspen crowd, many of who said afterwards that the prospect of a Perry presidency truly excited them. There were numerous pledges of support from the approximate 60 people there, including promises of additional financial backing in the future, and a general joy at having rubbed elbows with, as Holtzman proudly announced more than once that afternoon, the next president of the United States.
Before Perry addressed his supporters, former Congressman Scott McInnis, a Republican from Grand Junction, provided a couple personal anecdotes about his longtime friend. He and Gov. Perry have known each other for the last 25 or 30 years.
It was one of those good news/bad news stories, McInnis said as he began his tale by mentioning his wife Lori, a fifth generation cattle rancher from Meeker on whose family ranch the story played out.
McInnis recalled his frequent invites to Perry to elk hunt on the ranch, an activity the two enjoyed doing together over the years.
But on this particular hunt, McInnis said, “the bad news was that we’re going up a hill and Rick was walking up and thinking I’m an expert Colorado mountain man. I say ‘Rick, get on the back (of this ATV) and I’ll give you a ride.’ We were going up a steep incline and I geared down too far down and I flip the ATV,” McInnis related.
“The bad news was that I had a $25,000 face lift because of that situation. The good news was that Perry didn’t go off after the elk, he stayed there with me and got me to the hospital. The good news was that I didn’t kill the future president of the United States.”
Perry, whose Texas gentlemanly manner began charming his new fans as soon as he jumped out of the black SUV which carried him and family members up the winding road to Holtzman’s mountain abode, acknowledged that early fundraising has been a pretty good indication of the strength of his campaign, which was barely a couple weeks old. But even he was dazzled, he said, by the generous outpouring of support from his Aspen friends, some who have deep ties to Perry’s home state. “When you said $175,000,” Perry said as he glanced over at Holtzman, “I was afraid you were going to say the largest Republican fundraiser in Pitkin County — $175!”
Perry’s comment elicited laughs, as no one needed to be reminded that tony Aspen is usually a hotbed for Democratic party fundraisers, including one held in the mountain town a few weeks ago with first lady Michelle Obama.
While welcoming guests to his home, Holtzman explained his own support for Perry.
“Eleven years ago, before I became president of the University of Denver and served in the cabinet of Gov. (Bill) Owens, we were on a trip to Texas,” Holtzman recalled as he dished up details of his first meeting with then-Lieutenant Gov. Rick Perry. “I met him for the first time and was enormously impressed — I was blown away and followed the governor’s career.”
Holtzman became reacquainted with Perry last month through a mutual friend.
“I was not very impressed with the Republican field in the race right now and I had planned on sitting this race out and not doing very much,” Holtzman continued. “I was so excited and so motivated and so inspired when Gov. Perry decided to put himself forward and to make the tremendous sacrifice of getting into this race that I didn’t think twice.”
Holtzman said he came away from his meeting with Perry in Texas last month “not only charged and energized about the governor’s vision and his passion and everything he stands for, and as a young preson called to politics and inspired by Ronald Reagan, to me this is chapter two.”
Holtzman also complimented Mrs. Perry, who along with her son, Griffin, and daughter-in-law, Meredith, had accompanied her and her husband to Aspen. “Texas, in an incredible tradition, has produced some fantastic first ladies — Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush,” Holtzman continued. “In every respect Anita Perry will not only rise to that challenge but she is going to outshine it. As this country gets to know her, she is the best part of Rick Perry. We are so excited about what you two as a team have to offer this country.”
Showing his added admiration for the next potential first lady, Holtzman also let it slip that Mrs. Perry, like him, is a real dog lover. In fact, the Perrys and Holtzmans both share a love for their pet Dauchunds. Mrs. Perry evidently made quite the impression on Holtzman when she admitted to house sitting her daughter-in-law’s dog while she was away taking the bar exam.
“I don’t know what the future holds but I do know who holds the future,” Holtzman said as he concluded his remarks. “And ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present to you, the next president of the United States.”
“I love dogs,” Perry began as the crowd chuckled. “And thank you, Marc, for your kind remarks recognizing my strong suit which is my wife. I wouldn’t be standing here today, for a lot of reasons, if it weren’t for her.”
Sixty days ago, the couple seriously discussed the possibility of him running for president.
“I understand you love your job, you’ve got a great job and you’re pretty good at it, but our country is in trouble and you’ve got to do your duty,” Perry recalled the words of his wife.
“It truly is a time in our country’s history where we have to make some right decisions and we have to make from time to time, tough decisions. But I look forward to this, and I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities we have as a country. I think about Ava and Colton (Holtzman) and the vast majority of us in this room are doing it because we have some children and grandchildren we love.”
In the two weeks since he officially announced his candidacy for president, Perry has been back and forth to South Carolina and New Hampshire and then to Iowa. “I’ve run for governor three times and seen some pretty fascinating and upbeat crowds but never seen anything like we saw in those three states over the course of that eight-day time,” Perry explained.
“They’re really excited about the opportunity that there may be someone to step forward to lead this country who has experience of creating jobs. But they’re also frightened, they’re scared about what can happen in this country if we don’t get this right over the course of the next 15 months. That’s really what we’re all about, getting it right, for people are clamoring for a change across this country.”
As he dotted his comments with anecdotes from his recent visits, Perry emphasized the theme of people crying out for jobs across the country. And to that call for help, Perry said, he tells people that in the last ten years in Texas they have managed to put “simple but profound principles” into place which have guided them successfully.
The number one principle, Perry said, is don’t spend all the money. “I know on its face it seems so simplistic and simple but it’s important to have that principle guiding you every day.”
Second, Perry said, is to have a tax structure that is a light burden on job creators as it can be, but still deliver essential services.
“Have a regulatory climate that is fair yet predictable and stable,” Perry asserted about the third tenet of his economic philosophy. “People want to know when they risk $800 million to a billion dollars on a facility that when they’re halfway through they’re not going to change the regulations on us. The energy industry needs to know we’re not going to strangle that industry and that the fact of the matter is, we need to be having great focus on job creation on domestic energy and research.”
“And the fourth principle that has guided us in Texas is that we need to have a legal system in place that doesn’t allow for over sueing,” Perry said to wild applause of the guests. The governor would later explain that the Texas legislature passed the most sweeping tort reform of any state, resulting in 21,000 more physicians practicing medicine in Texas today. Last session, they passed a ‘loser pay’ bill which has also fostered fewer lawsuits.
“The fact is, if you can do what we’ve done in Texas over the last decade, we can do that for America. It’s going to take a leader with experience… to go to work and understand this is how we free up the American people to get back to work, to do what they want to do out there which is to create those jobs and create that wealth.”
The candidate added, “We can’t afford four more years of this president, and the debt and the unemployment, just the record deficits.
“When I say we’ve got to have change, I’m not talking about rhetoric change, I’m talking about a record change. I believe we have that record change in Texas.
“When it comes to economic growth, I know this,” Perry added. “The answer is not trickle down stimulus coming from Washington, D.C. but is truly up to freeing up those individuals unleashing corporate growth and the investment on Wall Street freeing them up from over taxation, over regulation and over litigation.”
Perry promised an energized campaign that will take the Republican mantra to Democratic states such as California. “I’m not enough of a pollyanna to tell you that somehow we’ve figured out how to carry California, but I promise you the current president will have to go there and campaign. As a matter of fact, I intend to make him go there and campaign often, because we’re going to have a true message of hope and prosperity. And people of this country, no matter what their political beliefs may be, whether they’re left or right on the scale, they know the future of America is at stake, that getting America back to work is the real key. And that’s what we’re going to be about every day, giving people hope and sharing with them vision to get America working.”