Fort Worth was the battleground in the Texas gubernatorial race — at least on Wednesday.
Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democrat state Sen. Wendy Davis met separately with supporters in Fort Worth, encouraging them to vote early or on Election Day on Tuesday.
Fort Worth is Davis’ hometown but is also in one of the reddest counties in the state.
“They are going to slug this out right to the end,” said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “They are making the rounds diligently, and rallies are safe events … to help them pick up some extra turnout.
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“It’s an effort to rally the troops.”
Abbott appeared at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Konni Burton, the GOP nominee for Texas Senate District 10, asking Republicans to choose him as the state’s 48th governor and taking a dig at his opponent along the way.
“Wendy has done Texas a tremendous favor,” Abbott told a crowd of more than 70. “By running for governor, she did not run for re-election in Senate District 10. And Senate District 10 is going to be returned to conservative … hands.”
About 10 miles away, Davis — along with Democratic U.S. Reps. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Xavier Becerra of California — met with more than two dozen supporters at her field office at La Gran Plaza, bringing coffee, doughnuts and appreciation for volunteers’ support of her campaign.
She shook hands, posed for pictures, encouraged people to vote — and threw a dig back at Abbott.
“The early vote numbers are encouraging as voters who are motivated by my commitment to investing more in our classrooms are coming out to the polls in higher numbers than in past gubernatorial elections,” she said. “They know we can’t afford someone like Greg Abbott who continues to defend billions of dollars in cuts to our public education system that have led to overcrowded classrooms and laid-off teachers.”
In the first eight days of early voting, more than 1.14 million Texans in the 15 largest counties have voted in person and by mail, up from 1.12 million in that same time frame during the 2010 gubernatorial election, according to data from the Texas secretary of state’s office.
Early voting wraps up Friday. After that, the last chance to vote will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Abbott, who told the crowd “we can’t allow Obamacare to sink its roots into this nation,” said he wants to ensure that the state stays economically sound and that Common Core is “never allowed” in classrooms.
He said that he has sued the federal government more than 30 times because of overreach, that voter ID requirements are needed to prevent dead people from voting and live people from voting more than once, and that he’s “ready to fight for the future of this great state.”
He noted that Davis had planned to win the female vote but, “as it turns out, I am winning the woman’s vote.”
His staff sent out an email Wednesday titled “Sen. Davis: Friends of Cattle Rustlers,” stating that Davis voted against a measure to boost penalties for cattle and swine rustling in 2009.
“If Sen. Davis had her way, cattle rustlers would be allowed to run rampant and hurt ranchers’ livelihoods,” said Matt Hirsch, Abbott’s communications director.
Abbott told the crowd Wednesday that Fort Worth residents “know the magnitude of our challenge more than anyone else” because this is both Davis’ hometown and the home base of Battleground Texas, which is working to encourage more Democrats to head to the polls.
But he said he’s optimistic about the race.
“I feel great, especially being here in Fort Worth,” he said. “We see a powerful turnout here. People in Fort Worth are excited and enthused.”
On Wednesday, Davis thanked volunteers and supporters for helping to spread the word about her campaign. Her team sent out an email noting that Abbott “spent months on defense over education after spending years defending billions in cuts to public education.”
“From the start of the year, Abbott was knocked off message over his court battle defending the $5 billion in education cuts against 600 Texas school districts that have led to teacher layoffs, overcrowded classrooms and shuttered schools,” according to the email.
“Greg Abbott was then forced to defend his proposal that could allow testing on 4-year-olds to determine which children get pre-K and which ones don’t, while unveiling a plan that cited a man referred to as a ‘white nationalist’ and speaking at a school that he was fighting in court,” the email stated. “To round out his less than stellar education platform, Abbott lost the school funding case in court and then decided to appeal, extending his battle with over 600 public school districts.”
During an apperance this week on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Davis said she’s emboldened by what she sees happening in Texas.
“We’re really encouraged by what we see in terms of the opportunity for a statewide Democrat to actually be elected in this state,” she said, adding, “I’m going to be governor, Jon.”