When Dallas County Republican chair Jonathan Neerman told us that the election of Cathie Adams as the state party's new chair "set the party back five years," even the editorial board at The Dallas Morning News took notice. A few days later, DMN'er Gromer Jeffers tried to make peace between Neerman and Adams, and then Jeffers brought up Neerman's comment to Governor Rick Perry during Sunday's broadcast of Inside Politics.
"Jonathan probably wished he could probably take that back, actually." Perry said near the 15:10 mark. "Look, Jonathan's a great kid, does a wonderful job up in Dallas ..."
Jeffers offers Neerman's response to the "kid" characterization in today's paper, but what struck us was Perry's statement that Neerman wishes he could take his comment back about Adams.
"I don't [wish I could take it back]. In context of how we move forward as a party, I stand by what I said," Neerman tells Unfair Park. "I haven't spoken with the governor or his office about it, so I'm not sure why he'd make that assumption."
Neerman says while he doesn't know the motivation behind Perry's remark, he doesn't believe it was nefarious. "It may be that he has heard criticism and he thinks that I'm hearing that same level of criticism, but I'm not. I'm actually hearing more supportive comments than negative comments."
Given that Adams supports Perry and the two are like-minded on social issues, Neerman says he hopes Perry doesn't view his comment as indirect criticism. "I've made clear that I am not taking a side in the governor's race, and I certainly wouldn't criticize any of our elected leaders."
Could the "kid" remark and Adams comment be tied together as a jab at Neerman for embracing a big-tent approach to growing the party -- the same philosophy that Kay Bailey Hutchison endorses?
"I would hope the two were independent thoughts and he was really complimenting me."
Neerman stresses that if Perry wanted to criticize him, he'd do so directly. "He has my phone number, and he would let me know he is not pleased." He also says that he didn't consider the "kid" comment as a shot until others suggested it might be. But after further review, Neerman assumes it was made with good intentions.
"I took it for what it was, which he was complimenting me on the work we're doing in Dallas, and I happen to be a little bit younger than he is -- he's Class of '72, and I'm Class of '96 [both are Texas A&M grads]. So he's a little bit older than I am, but I bet I've got more gray hair than he does."
We reached Adams on her cell phone, but she refused to comment and instead told us to get a hold of Bryan Preston, spokesperson for Republican Party of Texas, who's yet to return our call.