Bud Kennedy

March 18, 2014

Davis, Dems quick to react to RedState Women PAC

The debate over “equal pay” is also over limiting where, when and how women can sue for it.

If nothing else, by now everybody knows about the RedState Women PAC.

Texas Democrats made sure of that, recoiling at news of the new campaign promoting Republican women.

Hey — somebody had to promote Republican women, since the party nominated an all-testosterone statewide ticket of 15 men.

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, 43, starred in the Austin-based PAC’s first video, talking about her 2-year-old daughter and saying, “The Republican women in this state built this party.”

Democrats immediately mocked the claim, and the sarcasm grew louder when RedState Women director Cari Christman said women are “extremely busy” — and more concerned about creating jobs than about the Lilly Ledbetter Act expanding the right to sue for equal pay.

Seizing their first opportunity since Ted Nugent slipped off the radar, state Sen. Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign staff and various supporters sent no fewer than 11 announcements in two days denouncing RedState Women or Republican opponent Greg Abbott, most with headlines such as “Women Too ‘Busy’ For Fair Pay.”

It was easy to forget that both Republicans and Democrats supported the Ledbetter Act last year. The Texas version of the federal law passed the state House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Democrats view “equal pay” — the bill actually extended the window for filing a lawsuit — as a dollars-and-cents issue and part of Davis’ campaign, said Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson.

“It’s an attractive message, part of a larger demand for recognition of women’s autonomy and rights across the board,” Jillson said.

“Greg Abbott basically says he’s for equal pay, too, but not for any more laws.”

When Perry vetoed the bill by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, he wrote that it duplicated federal law, although the bill would have expanded it to allow lawsuits in state court.

Macy’s, Kroger and Brookshire’s were among retailers asking Perry for the veto.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, voted against the bill.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, she wrote that Democratic candidates are “focusing on wedge issues while Republicans are creating jobs and economic opportunities for women.” She called the state bill redundant.

Abbott’s campaign, leading comfortably, has remained mostly silent beyond his March 9 comment on WFAA/Channel 8: “I fully expect women to be paid what men are paid. There shouldn’t be any differential in pay.”

But Republicans also generally oppose more lawsuits.

“The RedState Women have an awkward message,” Jillson said.

“They haven’t formulated their argument yet.”

The result was a rare moment when Davis dominated coverage for perhaps only the second time since a Jan. 18 article in The Dallas Morning News about missing details in her too-streamlined campaign biography.

“She has been on her heels since then and has never really recovered,” Jillson said.

“I think this works in her favor. She can talk about a fair shake for women.”

And give the RedState Women plenty to talk about.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

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