It’s been 24 years since Texans last voted for their top state leader without one of the candidates having the tie of incumbency on the Governor’s Mansion.
Two very different choices await them on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Both Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, 56, and his Democrat opponent Sen. Wendy Davis, 51, are worthy candidates. Both have a history of service in state government that equips them with relevant skills and experience.
But both have blemishes.
Ultimately, the race must hinge on leadership. The candidate best able to outline and articulate an inclusive vision for all Texans and then lead the state in that direction deserves to be governor. The Star-Telegram Editorial Board believes that candidate is Greg Abbott.
It’s important to note that despite his close association with Gov. Rick Perry, Abbott would be a departure.
While he has vehemently opposed perceived and real efforts by the federal government to constrain the state, filing more than a dozen lawsuits as attorney general, he has also demonstrated an ability to be a voice of reason and moderation. If elected, he would need to employ such a measured approach in dealing with the feds as well as legislators — on both sides of the aisle — in Austin.
Abbott is often associated with Republican “red meat” issues, but a careful look at his website reveals a series of thoughtful and thorough policy prescriptions for education, transportation and healthcare, among other topics. In fact, his proposals appear far more robust than those of his challenger.
On education, Abbott has outlined a comprehensive plan to improve reading and math skills during the critical early years (pre-K through third grade), and would increase accountability among existing pre-K programs to ensure they are effective at closing the achievement gap. His plan would cost $775.5 million, and the targeted approach holds promise.
Both candidates fault the federal government for failing to secure the border and pass immigration reform. But Abbott plans to significantly beef up security. That includes hiring 500 additional DPS officers, 20 new Texas Rangers and more tools and technologies to assist law enforcement.
In spite of his tough rhetoric on illegal immigration, Abbott has worked to build support in the Hispanic community, seeking common ground on social and economic issues.
And it is on the economy where the case for Abbott is strongest. Texas has enjoyed significant growth and prosperity, and Abbott, as a small-government conservative, is best positioned to inspire confidence in the business community.
The questions surrounding his lack of oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund are troubling. He will have to reassure Texans that he is committed to leading an accountable and transparent government.
In Davis, Abbott faces a formidable opponent.
A savvy politician with a compelling personal story — despite her campaign’s early stumbles over her biography — she earned a solid reputation in Fort Worth before she rocketed to stardom with her now-famous 2013 filibuster on abortion. During her six years representing District 10 in the Texas Senate, and nine years on the City Council, Davis has served this community well.
As a state legislator, she led the effort to restore billions of dollars in education funding cut during the 2011 session.
As governor, she proposes a lofty education plan that would expand the state’s pre-K program, increase teacher salaries and expand early college opportunities. But she has declined to put a pricetag on her plan, calling in question its potential viability.
During her time in Austin, she developed a reputation for consensus-building, teaming up with Republicans as far afield as Rep. Jonathan Stickland. As a member of the minority party, she needed such collaboration for political success.
But despite Davis’ history of building bridges in both city and state government, she has run a campaign that is surprisingly divisive and isolating.
We worry that Davis would struggle to effectively represent and serve a state that is still overwhelmingly right of center, without further alienating her party and inciting her opponents.
Also running are Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Greg Abbott for governor.