AUSTIN, Texas — Thursday afternoon at a Randall’s grocery store in South Austin, Attorney General and Republican nominee for Governor Greg Abbott cast his ballot during the next to last day of early voting. Among other locations, Travis County is using several grocery stores as early voting locations. Joined by his wife, Cecilia, and daughter, Audrey, Abbott waited in a line that stretched across the store and studied a sample ballot given to him by a poll worker as reporters watched. After voting, Abbott took a few minutes to chat with supporters and press on his thoughts about the race, outreach efforts in the Rio Grande Valley, and his position on abortion.
— Jay Root (@byjayroot) October 30, 2014
“I know I got at least two!” Abbott quipped as he and his family exited the store, referring to the ballots he and Mrs. Abbott had just cast. Daughter Audrey is only seventeen and will have to wait until her father runs for reelection to vote for him. Abbott told reporters that he had voted a “straight Republican” ballot.
Abbott then joined a group of reporters for a brief Q&A. He expressed confidence in his chances and about voter turnout so far. “I’ve felt good, I feel good about the line that we were in. Voter turnout seems to be up today…I’m going to be campaigning today through election day because I want to go out and earn everybody’s vote.” Earlier this week, the Abbott campaign had announced that their office would be open 24 hours a day through Election Day, and campaign staffers confirmed that he is continuing a very busy schedule traveling across the state for the remaining days of the election.
Abbott expressed optimism about his chances in the Rio Grande Valley, a heavily Hispanic area that has been traditionally one of the most Democratic areas of the state. “I feel really good about all of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Abbott, noting the significant time and resources that his campaign had devoted to the region. Abbott himself had visited “sixteen or seventeen times” during this election cycle, and said that they had more people on the ground there than anywhere else in the state.
His family had been an asset in reaching out to Rio Grande Valley voters as well, said Abbott. “Obviously, my multicultural family has played a role in our ability to connect with the Rio Grande Valley,” he said, describing how he always received “greet cheers” when he mentioned that his wife would be Texas’ first Hispanic First Lady.
In contrast to his Democratic opponent, State Senator Wendy Davis, who rose to fame after filibustering HB 2, Texas’ bill restricting late term abortions and raising safety requirements at abortion clinics, Abbott has always advocated a staunchly pro-life position. However, several recent newspaper reports seemed to indicate that Abbott had wavered in this position and now supported allowing abortions in the first five months. Abbott took the opportunity to clarify that he was definitely still very pro-life, but would have to honor the laws of the state of Texas and the constitutional limits on laws restricting abortions, as set forth by the United States Supreme Court.
“I think I’ve been pretty clear about it. I’m pro-life. I’m Catholic,” said Abbott. “And I, as governor, will promote a state that supports a culture of life. But I also understand that we live in a nation of laws and the state of Texas has to operate within the laws that we have here. One of those laws passed here in the state of Texas is HB 2, which of course I’m defending right now, and we’ll see how the courts rule.”
Abbott continued, “Remember…even Roe vs. Wade said that the state has a legitimate interest in the health and safety of the mother, and a legitimate interest in protecting the life of the unborn.” Abbott then described the different legal arguments about when the state’s interest in protecting the unborn should be in effect. “Roe vs. Wade said that was beginning in the third trimester, and then Casey said that it was at the point of viability,” referring to two of the landmark Supreme Court cases that set forth the key parameters for abortions rights and restrictions, “and Texas is saying that it is at the point when the fetus feels pain. We need to see what the Supreme Court says about the Texas case.”
As Abbott wrapped up the presser and he and his family headed back to his car, supporters continued to come up to wish him luck, shake his hand, and pose for pictures. “I just graduated and I voted for you!” said one young woman as she excitedly grinned for a photo.
Early voting wraps up Friday, October 31 and Election Day is Tuesday, November 4.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.