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3 Things To Watch During Tonight's Governor's Debate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is campaigning for re-election against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Laura Buckman
The Texas Tribune
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is campaigning for re-election against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his closest challenger, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, take the stage in Austin tonight for the first and only debate between the candidates.

The debate kicks off at 7 p.m. Watch it below:

Or on  11 local stations that are part of the Nexstar Media Group. It will be on KXAN-TV in Austin, KXAS-TV in Dallas, KPRC-TV in Houston and KSAT-TV in San Antonio.

Here are three things to watch for that could make the debate more interesting as you settle in with your popcorn.

This issue is probably at the top of the list for both candidates. Gov. Abbott is running on his record of spending hundreds of millions of dollars strengthening border security, including sending additional DPS troops and National Guard troops down to the Mexico border.

For Valdez, this is a chance to hammer Abbott on an issue Democrats are ginned up about. It also could be the topic she is most prepared to address. Valdez took a hit during her primary race against Andrew White. The Dallas Morning News editorial board questioned her understanding of the school finance system and the state budget process. But she has been on firmer ground when talking about immigration.

So this topic could be the most interesting back-and-forth of the night.

Gov. Abbott has money, name recognition and a large lead in the polls. Valdez has none of that. So during this one hour, when she has a chance for the kind of statewide exposure that her campaign can’t afford, she’ll need to make it count. That means trying to score points. Trying to find a moment when she can make herself look gubernatorial, while making Abbott look bad. And if she can’t do that, her campaign will at least need an Abbott mistake to help propel it forward.

But Abbott is a seasoned debater, so if the Valdez campaign is hoping for the kinds of big mistakes that could change this race, it may be out of luck.

While this is a state race, not federal, President Trump is bound to come up. Texas voters are paying attention to the polices coming out of the White House – from his policies on immigration, to NAFTA, to education and trade. Democratic candidates, no matter the race, are hoping dislike of Trump will swing extra voters their way. The president’s high approval ratings among Republicans, meanwhile, have GOP incumbents snuggling up to the commander-in-chief in an effort to win re-election.

Do you have any questions about the race? Let us know and we could provide an answer in an upcoming TX Decides._

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.