Gov. Rick Perry will be attending a San Diego Republicans event tonight despite leaving the
presidential campaign trail earlier this week to dash back to Texas, where wildfires have devoured more than 1,200 homes in a week.
Before a meet and greet with the San Diego group, Perry will participate in his first GOP presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. — which NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will moderate.
Over the past three days, Perry met with residents in Texas who lost homes, gave briefings on the state of the fire and took an aerial tour of the charred ground. His message was clear: governing first, politics second.
"I'm substantially more concerned about making sure Texans are being taken care of," he said Tuesday after viewing by helicopter a fire-ravaged neighborhood west of Austin.
Perry left Texas only after firefighters began gaining control over the blazes. Firefighters gained ground Wednesday against one of the most destructive wildfires in Texas history, with the number of homes destroyed reaching more than 800. Perry has said he will request federal disaster relief for this round of wildfires.
The crisis is unfolding months after Perry signed a budget that cut funding to the Texas Forest Service by one-third. Yet the agency insisted that being $35 million lighter hasn't left Texas less equipped to fight the latest fires.
As fire raged back home on Sunday, Sept. 2. Perry abruptly left a campaign trip to South Carolina to head to Bastrop, a quaint community about 25 miles from Austin where a wildfire that spanned more than 16 miles was raging out of control. When he arrived, Perry got an earful from evacuated residents who demanded to know why more state planes weren't being used to pour water on the flames.
The same crowd applauded a few minutes later when Perry responded to a question about Wednesday's debate, saying he was "not paying attention to politics right now."
Copyright NBC San Diego / Associated Press