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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks energy, Trump in Charleston

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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Charleston on Tuesday to raise money for Senate President Bill Cole’s run for governor, boost Donald Trump’s run for the presidency and to tout business-friendly policy proposals.

The two-time Republican presidential candidate told a room full of invited energy executives and lobbyists that states need to tackle taxes, regulations, legal policies and education policies to make themselves more attractive to businesses.

“If you don’t remember anything I share with you this afternoon, I hope you’ll remember this,” Perry said. “Capital goes to where it is welcome.”

Surrounded by leaders of the coal and gas industry in a state that gets 96 percent of its power from coal, Perry touted Texas’ spot as the nation’s top producer of wind energy.

“We did that purposefully; it didn’t happen by accident. We put policies into place because we wanted a diverse energy portfolio,” Perry said. “You talked about how decisions were made here in the past where you got too many of your eggs in one basket, and having a diverse energy portfolio, I would suggest, is a really wise thing to do.”

The first bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature last year was a repeal of the state’s Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio, a largely symbolic law that electric utilities were able to comply with without adding any renewable sources of power generation.

Perry tempered his praise of wind energy with statements more typical for an elected Republican — fulsome praise for the coal industry and fossil fuels.

“We are not going to stop using coal, we’re not going to stop using the other fossil fuels that we have in this country,” Perry said. “The fossil fuel industry and capitalism have saved more lives than any other two concepts in the world’s history.”

Coal-powered electricity generation in the United States has seen steady declines in recent years, a result of the boom in natural gas, changing world markets and environmental regulations.

“The great irony in the ‘war on coal’ debate is that the enormous shale development in our own backyard has played a pivotal role in the decline of coal, especially in Southern West Virginia,” said Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a progressive think tank. “You can’t be 100 percent for coal and natural gas, it is a zero-sum game.”

Perry somewhat agreed in pushing for a diverse energy policy, more than favoring any one source.

“Corn and soybeans are both used in the cattle feeding business; we seem to get along alright,” he said. “I don’t want to rely upon just one source of fuel to grow my cattle. The same is true of the energy industry.”

Perry, who scrapped his second presidential campaign back in September, now is fully behind Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

He explained his support by pointing to the Supreme Court.

“If there’s anybody that’s ‘Never Trump,’ I say, ‘Folks, I appreciate your purity, but this is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,’ ” Perry said. “Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Supreme Court appointees. This isn’t about the next four years or even the next eight years; it’s the next 40 years.”

That’s a stark change from Perry’s stance during his campaign and at its conclusion.

In July, Perry called Trump a “cancer on conservatism” and said Trump’s “barking carnival act” offers “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

But Perry is now ready to pursue it, saying that he’s told Trump, “I’ll help you any way I can.”

Trump, who launched his campaign in 2015 by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, has not tempered the rhetoric that drew Perry’s scorn last year.

When Perry dropped out of the race, he said that “demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ.”

Trump has spent the past few days insinuating that a federal judge — overseeing lawsuits against now-defunct Trump University — is biased against him because he is Hispanic.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel,” Trump said at a rally last week. “The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great; I think that’s fine.”

Curiel is American and was born in East Chicago, Indiana, to immigrant parents.

Perry said remarks like that are not something he would get caught up on at this point.

“There are a lot of things that I could go argue with Donald Trump about, there are a lot of things that I could argue with George W. Bush about, there are a lot of things that I could’ve argued with John McCain about,” Perry said. “And I’m not going to get involved in that, because there’s a bigger picture: The bigger picture is Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.”

Perry was scheduled to speak at a closed-to-the-media fundraiser for Cole on Tuesday evening.

Cole previously had pledged not to fundraise for the gubernatorial race while the Legislature was in session, but with the Legislature now in its third week of a special session focused on the state budget crisis, he made an exception.

Cole’s opponent, Democratic businessman Jim Justice, criticized him for the fundraiser and called on him to give the money to the state to defray the cost of the special session.

Cole emphasized that he had done no fundraising during the 60-day regular legislative session and that he hadn’t known when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin would call the special session.

“I’m working from early to late, six, seven days a week, whatever I need to do to try to bring this budget in,” Cole said. “The budget process is not going to suffer one iota because we had a fundraiser tonight.”

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