In a same-day reversal of an earlier reversal, Republican candidate Greg Abbott has now decided to participate in a second debate against Democrat Wendy Davis.
Both gubernatorial candidates had agreed to participate in a round-table debate in Dallas on Sept. 30. But on Friday morning, Abbott’s team reversed course and said it would not participate, expressing concern over the format.
“Due to our inability to agree on specific details of the format, Attorney General Greg Abbott will regretfully not be participating in the WFAA debate,” Robert Black, a senior campaign adviser, said Friday morning.
He is Abbott’s new debate consultant, joining the campaign Aug. 4.
Davis’ campaign pounced on the news, slamming Abbott for being “too afraid” of having to defend his record. Democrats issued a statement calling him a “coward.”
Within hours, Abbott’s campaign reversed course again, saying it agreed to a Sept. 30 debate in Dallas, but one sponsored by different media outlets. The new sponsors are KERA, KXAS-TV, Telemundo 39 and The Dallas Morning News.
Abbott campaign manager Wayne Hamilton said in a statement: “Voters deserve a thoughtful and substantive policy discussion on how the next governor will lead Texas. Greg Abbott looks forward to sharing his vision for Texas’ future and participating in the upcoming debates.”
Davis’ campaign balked at immediately accepting the new debate sought by Abbott. Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said the campaign will have a further discussion with WFAA about the debate that both candidates originally agreed to.
The only other debate agreed to by Abbott and Davis is set for Sept. 19 in McAllen. If that holds, it would be the first general election debate in a governor’s race in nearly a decade.
In 2010, Rick Perry stuck to a vow in his final re-election campaign not to debate Bill White unless the Democrat released old tax returns.
The Rio Grande Valley debate will be hosted by The Monitor in McAllen, television station KGBT and Telemundo. It will be live-streamed online, and other television markets — including Dallas or Houston — could be added.
Staff writer John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press and WFAA.