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Wendy Davis chides Greg Abbott in Texas gubernatorial debate

During a discussion about education policy, Davis accused Abbott of wanting to impose standardized tests on 4-year-olds.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis pointedly criticized her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, in a debate Friday, painting her challenger as a friend of special interests who is detached from the concerns of everyday voters and schoolchildren.

During a discussion about education policy, Davis, a state senator, accused Abbott of wanting to impose standardized tests on 4-year-olds as an evaluation method. “The only way to avoid that is to hire a lobbyist, start a PAC (political action committee) and donate” to Abbott’s campaign, Davis said.

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While Abbott’s pre-k plan includes mention of “assessments at the beginning and end of the school year,” PolitiFact Texas reported that his proposal includes other methods of assessment.

The debate in general produced few fireworks -- the candidates mostly adhered to their agreed-upon time limits and voices never raised above a conversational level.

The candidates were only allowed to ask each other one question each directly. Abbott asked Davis whether she regretted voting for President Obama. Davis skirted the question, saying she is focused on "bringing policies forward that will benefit this state." Davis used her question to challenge Abbott over cuts to education in the Lone Star State. 

Davis appeared to be the more aggressive candidate throughout the debate, going after Abbott on education spending, the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

“Mr. Abbott is California’s best friend in Texas,” Davis said, referring to federal funding for Medicaid expansion that many Democratic governors -- and some Republicans -- have embraced under the Affordable Care Act. California has expanded Medicaid; Texas has not.

Abbott, meanwhile, called Obamacare an “abject failure” from which doctors are "fleeing." "Obamacare is bad for patients," he said.

Davis rose to national prominence in June 2013 when she filibustered an anti-abortion measure in the Texas legislature, even drawing support from President Obama on Twitter. 

Davis has consistently trailed Abbott in the polls. RealClearPolitics’ polling average has Abbott leading Davis by more than 12 points. A Davis victory, as unlikely as it seems less than two months before Election Day, would be historic. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.