UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.
Reactions from Republicans were universal that Abbott had won the debate, and Davis had performed even more poorly than they had expected.Red State Women Executive Director Cari Christman said, “One thing is clear from tonight’s debate- Greg Abbott is ready to lead as the next Governor of Texas. While Wendy Davis failed to exude one ounce of substance in the way of policy or future plans for our state, Greg Abbott demonstrated genuine leadership and a plan to protect, empower and increase opportunity for the women of Texas. Tonight, Texans learned Wendy Davis’ rhetoric can’t compete with Greg Abbott’s record.”
Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said, “Greg Abbott was the clear winner: he was calm, principled, positive, thoughtful and substantive. Wendy Davis was monotone, robotic, and on the attack, even resorting to break the rules halfway through. Wendy Davis needed a clear win and she didn’t get it. It was a very good night for Greg Abbott.”
President of the Texas Young Republicans Richard Morgan said, “If voters remember anything about Wendy Davis from her debate performance tonight, it was her stiff, robotic delivery or her shockingly distasteful performance when she spoke up over the moderator and refused to stop. It was a polar opposite to Abbott, who was relaxed and personable as he demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the issues.”
James Bernsen, Republican political consultant and former press secretary for Ted Cruz’s campaign, attended the debate and noted the difference in the demeanor of the candidates, noting that Davis “looked very unprofessional and sounded very scripted.” Bernsen added, “Abbott was cool and collected and
Davis was aggressive and off-putting, she never made eye contact with the camera once. She was nervous and trying bait General Abbott into making a gaffe but failed.”
After the debate, Bernsen saw Davis in the parking lot with a bullhorn to talk to her supporters, but she was interrupted by thunder and lightning. “it was like God was interrupting her.”
UPDATE, 6:55 p.m.
The Abbott campaign is already emailing out a video clip to “Watch Sen. Davis Meltdown during Debate,” from when she was interrupting the moderator. View it here.
Asked about Perry’s indictment, Davis wants to let the system work and says she will “abide by that decision and respect it.” Abbott says he was not part of the grand jury and does not have all the facts the grand jury may have had. “What I can tell you is that it is bizarre that a governor would be indicted for vetoing a spending measure.” Says that it’s important for the veto power to remain robust so that when he’s governor, he is able to exercise that veto for “inappropriate spending” and make sure that Texas “lives within the confines of a budget.”
Abbott asked next about how to ensure that border cities are reimbursed for costs of the surge of children crossing the border. “As we speak, my office is working on a potential lawsuit against the Obama administration” for all these expenses, and is looking at ways to roll in the costs from the cities. “It wasn’t McAllen or the Rio Grande Valley that caused this problem,” said Abbott, blaming Obama’s 2012 Rose Garden speech that encouraged people to believe there would be amnesty.
Davis said that as governor, she would convene local government representatives to see what they needed. Mentions again that she wanted a special session to hear from these people and faith based charities too. Once again, continues over the time limit and is cut off by the moderator.
UPDATE, 6:50 p.m.
Would the candidates support drug testing welfare recipients? Both say yes. Davis says she supported that bill last session, but that she also wants safeguards against false positive tests, and making sure that children are not punished for their parent’s problems. Says she worked with author of the bill to add language that if welfare recipient tested positive, they could continue their benefits if they entered a treatment program.
Abbott supports the law. “We want to do all we can in Texas to help those in need. Part of what we can do to help those in need is to help them improve their lives,” and helping them get out of drug addiction is part of that.
San Antonio raised taxes to have universal pre-K program. Abbott asked if he supports universal pre-K and how would he fund it? Abbott says he supports improving pre-K, and he views the program as “the starting point” for Texas’ education system. Says his program would be the “premier pre-K program in the entire country,” and builds on those lessons in the following years. Abbott continues to say that the solution “isn’t to throw money at it, but make sure that we structure the most effective program, so that students have literacy and numeracy skills that they can build on.”
Davis’ response: she “strongly supports” all day pre-K for all children in Texas. Claims Abbott’s program only is available for some favored children and repeats the debunked attack that Abbott wants standardized testing for 4-year-olds.
UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.
Candidate-to-candidate question time.
Abbott asks Davis if she regrets voting for Obama, Davis laughs off the question. “Ha!” and says she’s focused on running for governor, delivers familiar talking points about her life story.
Davis asks about the school finance lawsuit’s recent ruling that said that Texas public schools are unfunded. She’s on the attack again, “the only thing standing between our schools and appropriate funding is you. On behalf of the five million children of this state, will you agree to drop your appeals and allow our schools to be appropriately funded?”
Abbott replies that there is another thing involved in that lawsuit – a law that she voted for and helped pass in 2011 that removes from the AG’s office the ability to settle lawsuits like this. Then turns to his goal as governor, to “put partisan issues aside” and “build a better future for the next generation.” We need to “built a better education system for the next generation.”
Davis goes after Abbott again, even though this is against the debate rules (one question at a time), criticizing him for not dropping the appeals. The moderator has to interrupt her several times, reminding her “these are rules we all agreed upon.” She continues, “You are shortchanging our school children,” and the moderator admonishes her to save it for closing arguments.
UPDATE, 6:40 p.m.
Asked about recent anti-Hispanic rhetoric in national immigration debate. Abbott points out that he has been married into a Hispanic family for 33 years and if he is elected, Cecelia Abbott would be the first Hispanic First Lady for this state. “It’s essential that everyone in every geographic region, everyone of every type of background know that Greg Abbott is going to be a governor for them and for their culture.”
What Abbott has learned from his wife: “Even though we come from different cultural backgrounds, we unite on common grounds of faith, freedom and the free enterprise principles that will allow anybody to start and grow a business. Those values permeate across the state of Texas”.
Davis goes negative, going back to the “third world” comment, and says that “Mr. Abbott has been working very hard to silence the voices of members of the Hispanic community.”
UPDATE, 6:35 p.m.
Question about how Gov. Perry sent the Texas National Guard and additional DPS troops to the border. Davis sounds like the state’s Republican leaders as she says, “If the federal government will not act to secure our border, Texas must, and we will, and I did support the surge of DPS troops to our border.” However, she says that she would have preferred for Perry to convene the legislature in a special session so that they could hear from local community members what the needs were. Mentions how local law enforcement always says they need “the right boots on the ground” with authority to detain and arrest people (as opposed to the “deter and refer” restrictions on the National Guard).
Similar strong language from Abbott. “Texas will not stand idly by.” Says he’s the only candidate on the stage who has outlined a plan to deal with border security. Adding Texas Rangers, funding for technology, targeting cartels, and new law he supported strengthening penalties for human trafficking.
UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.
Responding to a question about gridlock, Davis points out that she served on the Fort Worth City Council “without a partisan affiliation by my name and I didn’t learn to function with one either.” Says she has worked across the aisle as a State Senator and Texas deserves a Governor that will “show respect for both parties, bring them together for common solutions, particularly making sure we fund our public schools.”
Abbott responds that he’s been effective at working with members of both parties to pass legislation in his capacity as AG. Mentions working with Senator Hinojosa in the RGV, Sen. Ellis passing criminal justice reforms, Sen. Kirk Watson passing open government laws. “Really, the most important thing is that I’m going to be focused on issues that I think affect all Texas families…ensuring that Texas remains number one in the nation for job creation…building the roads for the next generation…and I will be sure we have access to the water supplies we need so that communities in the RGV are able to continue to grow.”
Responding to a question about cases where death row inmates found innocent, Abbott says he supports the death penalty and that it needs to be enforced effectively. Lists several safeguards that include the multiple levels of appeals, state and federal, “literally dozens of judges” who look at a case before someone is put to death. Mentions how he worked with Sen. Rodney Ellis last session on an advanced DNA testing process for death penalty cases.
Davis also supports the death penalty and says as governor, she would be prepared to enforce it. “Before we mete out that most ultimate of punishments, [we need to be] sure that we are meting it out for a guilty person. DNA evidence is important not only for victims of crimes, but also the accused. Cites her work clearing out DNA backlogs in rape kits.
UPDATE, 6:25 p.m.
Asked about health care, Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. Davis calls Abbott “California’s best friend in Texas” for supporting the rejection of Medicaid expansion. Davis says that lets Texas money go to California. (PolitifactTexas tweets that this is false.)
Abbott talks about his plan that increases “access” to health care, rather than expanding Obamacare and Medicare. Says his plan gives better access and care to women, veterans, poor. Abbott adds that expanding Obamacare “is bad for patients, bad for doctors, bad for taxpayers,” and compares it to the problems reported recently at the VA.
What about raising the minimum wage? Abbott talks about how Texas is creating jobs, and they are not just low wage jobs. Cites statistics showing jobs created in top economic sectors, and says Texas economic miracle happening because not letting government get in the way. Davis replies by bringing up her personal history: she knows what it’s like to be in line at the grocery store and have to put some food back because she didn’t have enough money. She says, “It’s good for Texas to raise the minimum wage and allow families to provide for themselves as they so desperately want to do.” Davis continues, slamming Abbott, “Once again, my opponent is looking out for his insider friends” instead of Texas families.
UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.
When asked about issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, Davis made it clear she supports this idea.
The state senator said, “I believe that everyone who is on the road should have a drivers license and be ensured. other states have found a way to make this happen for undocumented citizens in their community…As Arizona does, I believe that Texas should issue drivers certificates to people who pass a drivers test and prove that they have insurance. That’s the safest way that we can ensure that people who are driving on our roads are driving with the right authority and the right insurance.”
UPDATE, 6:10 p.m.
The debate is off to a whirlwind start, with the moderators peppering questions at the two candidates, whose answers are limited to one minute each, with 45 second rebuttals.
Abbott and Davis pull no punches from the beginning, trading barbs over education funding, Abbott arguing for ensuring quality standards and Davis claiming that past education cuts have left Texas classrooms “devastated” and “overcrowded.” It’s a similar dynamic to past attacks Davis has launched at Abbott on education funding, specifically in a claim PolitiFact Texas rated as false that he said that Pre-KI funding was a waste. What Abbott actually said was that he would not support expanding the program without quality safeguards in place.
The topic of abortion is next. Davis is adamant, “Women must be able to make this most personal and difficult decision themselves.” Abbott responds,”I’m prolife and catholic, and like most Texans, I believe life is sacred.” Says he wants to promote culture of life in Texas, noting that “women still have five months to make a very difficult decision” but after that, the state of Texas has an interest in protecting innocent life. Abbott also brings up the other main issue of HB-2, improving health standards at abortion clinics.
Abbott is asked about his comments comparing political corruption in the RGV to the Third World. He replies that “we need to have a state that eliminates corruption.” Davis points out that he has not used that term for corruption he’s investigated in other parts of the state, saying “these comments mean something, they label a community.”
AUSTIN, Texas — Breitbart Texas contributors Kristin Tate and Sarah Rumpf will live-blog tonight’s debate between the two major party candidates for Texas Governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee, and State Senator Wendy Davis, the Democrat. The debate will be aired on television stations across Texas and nationally, and live-streamed from the Edinburg Conference Center at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, starting at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.
The Monitor has posted a link with information about the debate location, the rules for the debate, and the panelists who will be questioning the candidates. The live-streaming video will be hosted on YouTube (the video will show a countdown clock until it is time for the debate to begin), and is embedded below:
Both campaigns have launched websites dedicated to following tonight’s debate. The Davis campaign has added a “Debate Central” section to her website, and will be posting updates from the @WendyDavisTexas Twitter account and using the hashtag #TexasDebates and #TeamWendy.
Abbott’s campaign released a detailed “Debate One: What to Watch For” document, and posted it online in a section dedicated to the debate at DefeatDavis.com. In addition to the main @AbbottCampaign Twitter account, the campaign launched a special @AbbottResponse account that will engage in rapid response during tonight’s debate, and presumably, future campaign events. Abbott’s team has been using the hashtags #txgov and #rgvdebate.
Keep refreshing this page for additional updates as the time approaches for the debate to begin, as well as during the debate itself. Tate and Rumpf will follow the debate and the reactions from political influences, posting updates here and in other articles at Breitbart Texas, as well as on Twitter, where you can follow @BreitbartTexas, @KristinBTate, and @rumpfshaker.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.
Kristin Tate also contributed to this report.