Bill White has already made public the tax returns he filed between 2004 and 2009, when he was mayor of Houston. For months, Governor Perry has insisted that White go back even further, and release returns from the mid-1990s, when he served as deputy energy secretary and chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. Perry said if White didn't do it, he wouldn't debate him. Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones says the lack of an in-person face-off is unfortunate.
"Debates provide a great deal of information. They provide a focal point where voters in a relatively short period, they can get a lot of information on the major candidates. And if a debate does not end up taking place, they won't have that option."
Professor Jones says Perry, who has consistently lead in the polls, has more to lose by debating White. Jones believes Perry comes off as looking more stubborn, but White's refusal also raises an important question.
"If it's this easy to get the debate, just releasing a few years' tax returns, why doesn't he do it? And one can understand that he's sick of letting Rick Perry set all the terms of the debate. But, at the same time, he's the one who needs the debate, not Perry."
Jones says it's unlikely Governor Perry will change his mind about a debate between now and November 2nd, unless surveys begin to show that 'not' debating White is actually hurting Perry in the polls.