BETHESDA — Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent Wednesday visiting gun manufacturer Beretta USA in Accokeek and meeting with Maryland business owners in Bethesda as he continued his quest to lure businesses to Texas.
Perry defended his decision to meet with Beretta two days after the shooting at Washington Navy Yard that left 13 people, including the shooter, dead. The governor’s visit drew the ire of the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group formed in the wake of last year’s Sandy Hook shootings, who said in a statement the meeting was “inappropriate” and should have been postponed.
“There’s always anti-gun individuals at any time,” Perry said outside the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Bethesda. “The fact is I’m a pro Second Amendment guy. Texas is a pro Second Amendment state. And Beretta has been a great manufacturer in Maryland and they feel not only underappreciated but under attack.”
Beretta issued a statement in May saying that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s support of anti-gun legislation has forced it to “evaluate whether they want to remain in the state.” A company official declined to discuss Wednesday’s visit.
Perry compared his agenda of getting Maryland businesses like Beretta to relocate to Texas to University of Maryland football coach Randy Edsall recruiting players from other states.
“I bet he has a couple Texans on that team, darn it,” he said. “But that’s OK. That’s how the Terps get to be a better, more competitive team. I will suggest to you that Gov. O’Malley ought to come recruit business in other states.”
Perry has been criticizing Maryland’s business practices – including its “high taxes and relatively burdensome regulatory climate” – in television and radio ads that started running last Thursday. He has launched similar campaigns in Illinois, Missouri, Connecticut and New York that claim Texas is a better state for business.
“If you want to be free, free from over-taxation, over-litigation, over-regulation, a place that’s got a great skilled workforce, move to Texas,” he said.
Of those three issues, Perry emphasized Maryland’s high taxes for businesses the most.
“We pray for rain in Texas,” he said. “They tax it in Maryland.”
Not everyone agrees with Perry’s views on the Maryland business landscape.
Julie Lenzer Kirk and Michael Binko, co-chairs of the entrepreneurship empowerment group Startup Maryland, were outside the Bethesda hotel to let Perry know of the positive elements of Maryland’s business climate.
“There’s more to building a business than taxes,” Kirk said. “You can’t argue with taxes, but we can talk about the rich ecosystem and support. You can’t beat Maryland for the resources for entrepreneurs.”
Binko added: “Every state has something to offer. We think Maryland has more to offer than most states out there, Texas included.”
Several prominent Maryland Republicans were in Bethesda to meet with Perry, including gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar and Maryland Republican Party Chairman Diana Waterman.
“We prefer that our businesses stay here and talk with their votes next election,” Waterman said. “Elect more Republicans. We can turn this around and make Maryland business friendly. We thank Gov. Perry for highlighting and showcasing just how dire things have gotten in Maryland with all those ads he ran. That’s the same message we’ve been saying for years.”
O’Malley was scheduled to defend himself in a debate with Perry on CNN’s “Crossfire” Wednesday evening.
“I’m looking forward to having a spirited discussion about the better choices that we need to make in our states in order to strengthen our middle class,” O’Malley said outside the State House earlier Wednesday. “And it will be a pretty sharp contrast.”
Capital News Service staff writers Emilie Eastman and Jason Ruiter contributed to this report.