AUSTIN -- The Texas governor's race moved into its final full week on Monday with a new poll showing Republican incumbent Rick Perry with a 10-percentage point lead over Democratic challenger Bill White.
Perry, seeking an unprecedented third four-year term, also secured an endorsement from former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush. White, meanwhile, accused Perry of resorting to "desperation" tactics with an ad featuring the widow of a Houston police officer killed by an illegal immigrant.
The latest University of Texas/Texas Triune poll shows Perry leading White by a 50-40 percentage point margin.
Libertarian Kathie Glass has 8 percent and Green Party nominee Deb Shafto has 2 percent. The survey of 797 voters was conducted Oct. 12-18. Early voting started Oct. 18 and ends Friday.
White said his internal polls show a closer race.
"We've found a lot of momentum on our side," said the former three-term Houston mayor. "It's going to be a horse race and every vote will count."
Nevertheless, the poll underscores assessments that 2010 is a Republican year, particularly in red-state Texas. GOP incumbents in other statewide races lead Democratic opponents with margins between 13 and 20 points.
James Henson, director of the University of Texas Politics Project, which conducted the poll, said the findings suggest that Perry's strategy of attacking Washington policies and touting the state's healthy economy compared to the rest of the nation is apparently resonating with voters.
At an Austin press conference, White sharply assailed a Perry ad in which police Sgt. Joslyn Johnson, the wife of slain Houston police officer Rodney Johnson, criticizes the former Houston mayor for "sanctuary city" policies that "made it difficult for officers to safely do their jobs." She said her husband "was murdered in the line of duty" by an undocumented alien who had been convicted and arrested several times.
White said the ad is "a sign of desperation that [the Perry campaign] would exploit the grief of a widow."
The president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, which has endorsed White, joined the candidate in attacking the ad. "You do not exploit the grief of family members for political purposes," said Cpl. Richard Van Houten.
Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner defended the ad. "These are Sgt. Johnson's own words and it's unfortunate that Bill White supported sanctuary city policies that made it unsafe for officers to do their jobs," said Miner. "It's his record he should be ashamed of."
Perry's campaign has repeatedly described Houston as a sanctuary city, in which law enforcement officers do not inquire about a person's immigration status. White campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon said independent fact-checkers have repeatedly found that Perry's charge is false.
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