The Democratic Governors Association on Tuesday released a new ad portraying Republican Gov. Rick Perry as a man who tried to force a controversial vaccine on young girls at the behest of pharmaceutical companies.
The commercial, running in the Dallas area, opens with a view of what the narrator identifies as "the arm of an 11 year old girl" being injected with a drug. The ad then displays an image of Perry as the narrator adds, "Now, imagine a governor who wanted to take a needle, fill it with a controversial drug for sexually-transmitted diseases, and inject it in every 11 and 12-year-old girl in Texas."
The narrator continues, "That's what Gov. Rick Perry wanted to do. That's what Gov. Perry and his drug company friends wanted him to do."
The ad was made by Lone Star First, an organization funded by the DGA, and references Perry's 2007 executive order that forced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to create rules for sixth-grade girls in Texas to receive the HPV vaccine. Human papillomavirus is a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
The issue was controversial for a number of reasons. Critics viewed the mandate as infringing on parental rights, while others claimed it was meant to serve the financial interests of Merck, the pharmaceutical company producing the vaccine. The company donated $5,000 to Perry's campaign fund in 2006, the Dallas Morning News reported, and paid Perry's former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, for his work as a lobbyist.The Perry campaign today dismissed the ad a "desperate attack" from his Democratic opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White.
"They are pulling out old tricks that haven't worked before and they aren't going to work now," said Alejandro Garcia, a spokesman for Perry's campaign, told the Hotsheet.
An earlier Lone Star First ad mentioned the HPV vaccine issue, claiming that Perry wanted to inject the drug "without a parent's consent." According to PolitiFact Texas (run in conjunction with the Austin American-Statesman) the claims were false, and the mandate was to include an opt-out for parents who did not want their daughters vaccinated.
Earlier this year, Perry defended his decision on the issue back in 2007, citing a pro-life argument.
The plan, set to go into effect for the 2008-2009 school year, was blocked by lawmakers, and according to Garcia, is dead. "It's not anything that can be revived," he said.
Perry has served as governor since 2000. CBS News has labeled the governor's race as "edging Republican", and Perry leads in recent polls, but the DGA's investments signal the Democrats see the race as competitive.