With less than five weeks until Election Day, Texas Democrat Wendy Davis went on offense during her final gubernatorial debate with Republican Greg Abbott on Tuesday night– skewering him on a slew of issues, including abortion, Obamacare and gay marriage.
Davis – a 51-year-old Texas state senator who was propelled into the national spotlight after pulling an 11-hour filibuster on an anti-abortion measure last year – is trying to play catch-up in both polling and fundraising against Abbott, the state attorney general. The GOPer has held a 3-to-1 cash advantage, and according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of survey data surrounding the race, Abbott is ahead of Davis by 12.6 points.
During the debate in Dallas, Davis – who is pro-choice – repeatedly tried to depict Abbott – who is against abortion even in the case of rape and incest– as being an extremist.
“I’m pro-life and Catholic. I want to promote culture of life,” the Republican said. Davis responded by saying it should be up women – not the government – to make personal, difficult decisions. Abbott, she argued “believes it is his right to intrude.”
The two candidates were also given a hypothetical situation, asked what they’d tell a 10-year-old girl asking if her two dads should be allowed to get married. Davis argued in favor of marriage equality and noted Abbott has renewed the fight against same-sex marriage. She also said she’d welcome a bill that would give voters an opportunity to appeal the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Abbott reiterated, “I believe in traditional marriage,” noting he’s been married to his wife for more than three decades and that more than 75% of Texans approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in the state.
Some of the liveliest moments of the debate surrounded a recent state audit that found current Republican Gov. Rick Perry shelled out approximately $170 million – via his Texas Enterprise Fund – to private companies that never submitted formal applications. Davis has accused Abbott—in his role as state attorney general—as turning a blind eye as tax dollars were given to companies without any accountability and little oversight.
Abbott has called the accusations “political posturing.” According to the Dallas Morning News, since 2003, Abbott received at least $1.4 million in contributions from beneficiaries of the Texas Enterprise Fund.
Abbott insisted during the debate that neither he nor his office acted improperly. The attorney general then accused Davis of acting unethically herself, insisting she profited when the store Cabela’s moved to Fort Worth when Davis was a council member in that city. Cabela’s had also received money from the same fund 10 years ago.
“You are not telling the truth. I did not personally profit from that,” she said. Davis also said, “I have been willing to stand up to the biggest, baddest bullies in the world.”
Sparks flew when the two candidates were asked about Perry’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Abbott argued for a block grant to address Texas’ health care challenges and called Obamacare a “disaster.” Davis, meanwhile, said Texas is losing out on money that’s going to other states. She described Abbott as “California’s best friend in Texas” for not being in favor of using the federal funds.
The two candidates at the beginning of the debate also touched on the breaking news that the first U.S. case of Ebola was confirmed in Dallas. Both said they backed a quarantine in place for the patient and both touted the officials they had spoken to earlier in the day.