AUSTIN - Get ready for a replay of the shotgun jokes. Dick Cheney is heading to Texas.
The former vice president is backing U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas governor's race and will be in Houston for a Nov. 17 fundraiser.
Cheney's endorsement could boost Hutchison's support among conservative activists in her bid to unseat Gov. Rick Perry in the March 2 Republican primary. But the visit is also likely to be a mirthful reminder of an ill-fated Texas trip in 2006, when Cheney accidentally shot and wounded 78-year-old attorney Harry Whittington on a quail hunt.
The vice-presidential mishap uncorked a spate of late night jokes like this one from David Letterman: "Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction. It's Dick Cheney." Texas Monthly also featured a shotgun-wielding Cheney on an award-winning cover in 2007, declaring: "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, Dick Cheney Will Shoot You in the Face."
Cheney has strong ties to Texas and Texans. A former congressman from Wyoming, he served as defense secretary under President George H. W. Bush, directing Pentagon strategy in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. As vice president under Bush's oldest son, George W. Bush, he developed a reputation as conservative hard-liner. He also lived in Dallas as CEO of Hallilburton before becoming vice-president.
Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder said Cheney and the state's senior senator"have worked together over the many years on a lot of conservative issues," including passing President Bush's tax cuts and strengthening the military.
"We're proud to have his support," said Pounder.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Cheney's endosement of Perry's leading rival is not suprising "considering they both worked together in Washington for so long. The Washington establishment usually sticks together."