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Over The Weekend, Politicos Get Close-Up Of Abbott, Davis

Texas Tribune

They didn’t appear together or talk about each other, but this weekend voters had a chance to take a closer look at the likely nominees for governor. 

State Senator Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Houston Republican, fielded questions during lengthy interviews at the Texas Tribune’s public policy conference in Austin.

Credit Texas Tribune
Republican Greg Abbott announced his bid for governor in July.

For an hour, in front of an audience, Abbott talked about issues he’s dealt with as attorney general, including the controversial voter ID law which Democrats and Republicans are wrangling over in court.

“It is a fact we’ve had far more incidences of voter fraud than people who have been denied the right to vote because of voter ID,” Abbott told the audience, though the interviewer suggested stricter identification at the polls would not have prevented many of those abuses.    

Abbott filed a lawsuit asking the courts to uphold the requirement being enforced this November, that Texans show a valid photo ID when they go to the polls.

Abbott says Democrats are wrong when they claim fewer minorities and seniors will vote.

“If you look at the states that have implemented a voter ID voter participation goes up and voter participation by minorities goes up.  So there is no evidence showing that showing requiring voter ID suppresses any kind of vote,” Abbott said.

Abbott says he believes he’ll win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in November if he becomes the Republican nominee, and that the GOP is working hard to appeal to more Hispanic conservatives.

He also explained why his agency joined a usual nemesis, the Obama administration, in filing a lawsuit to oppose the merger of Fort Worth-based American Airlines with U.S. Air.

“We believe certain components of this violate anti-trust laws.  We have focused in on a couple of unique aspects of this and that is to ensure that people in rural areas are not going to be harmed by this.  But we are working on trying to make sure we have a merged product that will comply with the law and take care of the people of Texas,” he said.

During her appearance, State Sen. Wendy Davis condemned the American Airline lawsuits saying they could seriously damage the state economy and North Texas jobs.

“There are thousands upon thousands that are reliant upon that airline emerging from bankruptcy and of course them being able to accomplish their merger.  And I think that (filing the lawsuits) was the wrong call.” 

Davis, who is expected to announce her candidacy for governor on Thursday, steered clear of actually saying she’ll run.

But she began striking the tone she may need to attract some Republican and independent supporters and to rid herself of the “liberal” label often attached to Democrats.

Davis said she thinks the state has enough revenue, a signal to conservatives that she won’t rush in and raise taxes.

“I would certainly take a sales tax, a property tax increase off the table.  Absolutely.  If I had one day, someday, the privilege of being in a leadership position that could veto legislation like that I would,” she said.

Davis said, as she has in the past, that lawmakers may be able to shift spending by eliminating some of the state’s $35 billion in longstanding tax exemptions and loopholes.

“Ask whether they still make sense,” she urged.

An overflow crowd of about a 1000 packed the auditorium and nearby hallway to see Davis, and Democrats who preceded her on stage talked about a new confidence that they can win statewide with Davis leading the ticket.

Although there will be other primary opponents the starting gun for an Abbott- Davis governor’s race begins this week once Davis announces she’s in.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.