Abbott, Davis debate over border security, funding

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Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis shakes hands with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott after participating in the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate in Edinburg, Texas on Friday. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Attorney General Greg Abbott swiveled in his seat, put his elbows down on the table and asked State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, with a half-smile, “Do you regret voting for Barack Obama?” 

Davis ignored Abbott’s question at Friday’s gubernatorial debate in Edinburg — the first gubernatorial debate ever held in the Rio Grande Valley — and instead focused on her goals as governor instead of her voting past. 

“I’m running for governor,” Davis said. “I’m working to make sure every hardworking Texan can go as far as they dream. Texas is at a turning point. That’s what’s important at this election. I believe we need a governor who will fight for all hardworking Texans because their futures depend on this.” 

Davis and Abbott debated border issues, funding and abortion. Davis repeatedly referenced Abbott’s “third world” comment from February about South Texas and said she supported the surge of border patrol officers to the Rio Grande Valley region.

“I would start by listening to the local law enforcements and officials who know best,” Davis said. “If the federal government does not secure the border, Texas must. We must be sensitive to the reputation of this community. Comments from [politicians] calling this ‘third world’ are inappropriate.”

The two candidates also debated over health care options. Davis said she supports abortion, while Abbott said he believes life is sacred.

“Texas is ensuring we protect more life and ensuring we protect the health of women,” Abbott said. “Women still have 5 months to make a very difficult decision. But, after that, Texas has an interest in protecting innocent life.”

In the debate, Davis said that she supports the death penalty. Alexander Parker, a Plan II, business honors and finance sophomore and College Republicans communication director, said he liked Davis’ more conservative answers. 

“I did appreciate how Republican Davis sounded,” Parker said. “On many issues, such as Perry’s actions on the border and the death penalty, she provided no contrast to the Republican stance. I think Davis has realized that the average Texan disapproves of her party’s stance on a wide range of issues.”

The two clashed when Davis asked Abbott what he would say about the underfunding of Texas public schools and when he would settle a lawsuit filed by districts around Texas.

“There is something between me and settling this lawsuit, and it is a law you voted on in 2011,” Abbott said. “I want to focus creating on as governor a better education system for this state. My goal as governor is to [elevate] the Texas education system.”

Max Patterson, history senior and University Democrats president, said he thought Davis should have pushed Abbott harder on this issue. 

“Though Gen. Abbott tried to persuade people in the debate that he cared about our underfunded schools, Sen. Davis is the only candidate in the race that has proven her support for our schools and will be a tireless advocate for public education once elected,” Patterson said in an email.

Davis closed by saying she has shown Texas her true self.

“I’ve shown it by fighting for every 4 year old to have access to pre-K and for every high school student to have affordable access to college,” Davis said. “I will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will close loopholes for giant corporations. I am you. I have never forgotten who I am or where I come from, and I will fight for you every single day.”

Abbott said he would continue to fight for Texans’ freedom.

“As your attorney general, I’ve been fighting for your liberty against an overreaching federal government,” Abbott said. “I want to fight for the future of Texas as your next governor. I will work to fulfill that aspiration. I will keep Texas the land of opportunity, the place where more freedom and less government still matters.”