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Gov. Greg Abbott And Challenger Lupe Valdez Spar In Debate Over Arming Teachers, Harvey Recovery

Debate between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, in Austin
Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune
An audience watches the only Texas gubernatorial debate between incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, in Austin, Texas on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018.

Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor, swung away at Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in their first and only debate Friday evening, while Abbott largely ignored her and defended his first term.

Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, hammered Abbott in response to nearly every question, accusing him of stoking fear and focusing on the wrong issues. But Abbott, who is seeking a second term, spent more of his time previewing where he would take the state if elected to a second term.

Their differences were nonetheless clear. For example, Abbott reaffirmed his support for letting teachers be armed after the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting earlier this year, while Valdez insisted "teachers should be teaching, not being armed and in defense."

Abbott made news on several fronts. He said he thought lawmakers should take down the historically inaccurate Confederate plaque at the Texas Capitol, though he argued it is a legislative responsibility and not one he can make on his own. He also said a "bathroom bill" is not on his agenda for the next session, but he declined to say whether he would sign one if it reached his desk. And he expressed openness to reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana — amounts below 2 ounces.

Abbott and Valdez do not have another debate planned between now and Election Day, when Libertarian Mark Tippetts is also on the ballot. Tippetts was not included in Friday's debate and held a news conference before it to voice his objections.

The hourlong event was was hosted by the Nexstar Media Group and held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

Like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, Abbott and Valdez had a back and forth over debates. Abbott made the first move in July, announcing he had accepted an invitation to the Nexstar debate.

About a week later, Valdez said she was planning to participate in a separate debate that had been planned for Oct. 8 in Houston. But Abbott held firm on the Nexstar debate, and Valdez agreed to it last month while claiming victory in getting Telemundo on board as one of the sponsors.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

» Watch a replay of the debate here.

When to vote

• Early voting in Texas is Oct. 22.
• Election Day is Nov. 6.
• Information on how to vote can be found at

Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.