AUSTIN (AP) - One notable Texan quietly left the state before the ice and rolling blackouts wreaked havoc: Governor Rick Perry.
Perry is on a five-day swing through California to meet with business leaders and participate in weekend events paying tribute to former President Ronald Reagan. The governor, who has courted the national spotlight as a critic of the Obama Administration and bloated federal government, left town on the same day Texas experienced its worst winter power outage in modern history.
Aides say the Republican governor is in constant contact with emergency management officials back home, but his absence is already sparking criticism from Democrats.
Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray said it would "surprise and disgust" many Texans to know that Perry had left the state while Texans were dealing with the fallout from the storm.
"The governor talks about California like he hates the place, but then again he says the same thing about Washington but still took billions in federal stimulus funds," Gray said. "Perry's actions are as meaningless as his words."
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the governor was planning to meet soldiers aboard the USS Ronald Reagan on Thursday. He also said Perry was in "private meetings" with California business leaders, trying to persuade them to relocate to Texas. Miner said the travel was not at taxpayers' expense. He declined to identify the business leaders.
"It's unfortunate the Democrats are trying to make this a political issue when the governor is recruiting new businesses to Texas and is spending time with those who are protecting our country," Miner said. "Clearly, the Democrats are once again misinformed."
Acting as governor while Perry is gone is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the state Senate and will take over Perry's duties until the governor returns on Sunday night, officials said. Dewhurst said the extreme weather knocked out power to 50 Texas power plants Wednesday. He said a "lack of adequate winterization and preparation appear to be a major cause of the outages."
The state was hit with rolling power blackouts Wednesday after the electrical grid experienced peak demand and diminished power plant capacity.
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