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Trailing In Polls, Wendy Davis Promises To 'Give It Everything I Have'

Shelley Kofler

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis continued her assault on Republican opponent Greg Abbott’s pre-kindergarten plan, this time in Dallas.

But as she spoke at the annual conference for the Texas Retired Teachers Association, a new national poll was released, showing the state senator from Fort Worth has made little headway in chiseling down Abbott’s lead.

Davis was in friendly territory as she told a legion of retired teachers she would make pre-kindergarten available to all children regardless of family income. And she’d mandate more than the current three-hour day.

“My plan would offer every 4-year old in our state an early start on education through a full-day, quality pre-K program,” she said, drawing applause.

Abbott declined an invitation to speak in person to these educators, citing a conflict in his schedule. Instead, he sent a videotaped message.

That left Davis to continue her attack on Abbott’s 26-page pre-K plan in which he describes options for measuring 4-year-old learning, including standardized testing. Abbott says that kind of testing was included in his plan only as information and he would oppose it for pre-K. 

But Davis isn’t letting loose of the issue, claiming Abbott is trying to “pull the wool over our eyes.” 

“I think you would agree with me that 4-year-olds should be coloring with crayons and not filling in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil,” she said. 

After her speech, Davis told the media there needs to be some means of assessing what a pre-K student is learning.

“There’s no question that it’s probably a good idea that as a legislature we look at that we look at that and make sure we’re getting the kind of quality in those programs we believe should be there,” she said. 

But Davis would lean towards observing a child’s skills and work as opposed to a standardized test.

Davis’ tough talk about Abbott comes as a national PPP poll says she’s gained little ground against him since November. She trails him by 14 points. And though Davis has worked hard to attract female voters by championing women’s health issues and equal pay, the poll shows Abbott leading Davis among women by 8 points.

How will she make up the difference?

“I’m going to give it everything I have to make sure people understand there is a very clear difference and there’s a great deal at stake,” she said. 

With seven months until the election, Davis insists this will be a fight to the finish.

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.