Politics & Government

As governor’s race hits homestretch, Texas women seen as key

With less than a month until the election, both the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Wendy Davis, and the Republican nominee, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, are fighting for the female vote.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, took her case to the Star-Telegram Editorial Board on Wednesday, stressing that Abbott “does have an extreme perspective on reproductive rights,” including limiting women’s options even in cases of incest or rape.

She said he has already vowed to veto an equal-pay-for-equal-work bill if he becomes governor. And she noted that while she has been fighting a measure she believes provides insufficient funding for Texas schools, he has defended it in court.

“I am running for governor because I know I will be good for the Texas economy,” Davis said. “And I know that I am the person who is going to take Texas forward to the 21st-century economy with a trained workforce.”

On Wednesday, Abbott made his own pitch to women, speaking at a Republican luncheon in Austin.

There, Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, threw her support behind Abbott.

“There is only one candidate in this election for governor who will focus on further unleashing the potential and the opportunity here in Texas,” she said. “There’s only one candidate who has the vision, a blueprint for Texas going forward. Greg Abbott understands that the past is not prologue, that the strong foundation that has been built here in the state has to continue to be built for the 21st century.

“And, of course, that candidate is Greg Abbott.”

Davis spoke with the Star-Telegram Editorial Board for about an hour Wednesday morning, discussing her stance on issues ranging from ethics to education. Members of the Editorial Board have asked Abbott to speak with them, but they have yet to receive a response.

Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer are also on the ballot.

Ethics

Ethics has been a big issue in the gubernatorial debate.

On Tuesday, Abbott accused Davis of a history of “lavish spending” with her campaign money, referring primarily to purchases made to rent “luxury” apartments in Austin after she was elected to the Texas Senate in 2008. His campaign also said she uses campaign dollars to pay for utilities and maid services in those apartments.

Davis said: “These are legal and ethical, and almost every legislator uses campaign contributions for these very same purposes. I, once again, am always very sensitive to making sure that I’m complying with the ethics standards that are in front of me.”

On Wednesday, Davis’ campaign sent out an email in response, noting that Abbott has spent more than $45 million in taxpayer money on travel for his office.

“Talk about traveling in style — Abbott spent more than $45 million of Texas’ taxpayer money on travel during his time as Attorney General,” said Zac Petkanas, Davis’ communications director. “Just imagine what he’d spend if he gets a promotion.”

Money was also on the mind of Abbott’s campaign, which sent an email noting that the funding Davis has on hand — about $5.7 million, compared with Abbott’s $30 million — “could doom her.”

But Davis remained focused Wednesday on what she has maintained for weeks — that Abbott dropped the ball in overseeing the Texas Enterprise Fund, especially since a state audit recently revealed that about $170 million was given to companies that never filled out applications for the funding. She also criticized a past ruling by Abbott to withhold applications of companies seeking money from the fund.

“Greg Abbott engaged in a cover-up,” she said. “Pure and simple. He should have come forward and honestly told the press that there were no documents.”

Other issues

Among the issues Davis touched on Wednesday:

Education funding: She said creating full-day pre-kindergarten in Texas would be a priority, as would trying to raise teacher salaries — which she said are about $8,000 a year below the national average.

Abortion: Whether to have an abortion is an intensely private decision that Davis said should be left up to an individual. “I believe women should be trusted to make these decisions for themselves, guided by their faith and their family and their doctor.”

Border patrol: Davis said she supported sending Department of Public Safety troopers to the border but fears that local communities were ignored when the National Guard also arrived. She said she has heard from officials near the border “who feel as though their communities have been militarized.” She also said she believes those troops along the border will be brought back before the next legislative session begins. “Some say that Gov. Perry, of course, was using this as a feather in his presidential … cap,” she said. “I think there’s probably some legitimacy to that perspective.”

Exemptions/loopholes: As governor, Davis said, she would ask the Legislature to look at exemptions and loopholes to determine what options might be cut to save tax money.

Turning out the vote

Davis said she knows that her best chance to become governor is to motivate once-every-four-years voters, who typically cast ballots only in presidential elections, to head to the polls next month.

That’s why she has worked hard to set up an infrastructure to motivate voters now and in the future.

“We have been working very, very hard to make sure that base voters who have been staying home in gubernatorial election years … will come out this time,” she said.

She said she has spent about $6 million to help shore up voter development and has about 30,000 volunteers statewide — something not seen in decades.

But Davis said she’s unsure whether any big-name national Democrats — such as President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton or potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — will personally stump for her in Texas.

First lady Michelle Obama has recorded a radio ad launched this week that encourages Texans to vote for Davis.

“I don’t know if any of them will be willing to come,” she said. “We’re certainly trying to get some help down here to help encourage the base. We are looking at all those options, so we will see what happens here.

“We would love the support of anyone who could help us turn out our base.”

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