Clayton Williams

While I completely understand why Attorney General and gubernatorial front-runner Greg Abbott would not want to debate state Sen. Wendy Davis, his Democratic adversary, I also understand that it’s not enough for both candidates to tour college campuses across the  state, reciting each campaigns’ usual talking points. Both candidates must be called out by the opposing candidate for their policies and initiatives in a debate: UT students deserve to hear Davis call out Abbott for his defense of education cuts in court; Abbott should call out Davis for her lack of clarification on how she plans to afford her education initiatives if elected governor.

Although the two gubernatorial candidates originally agreed on debating in Dallas on Sept. 30, Abbott backed out of the Dallas debate Aug. 29, citing concerns over the proposed debate’s “controversial” format. The two candidates have since agreed to another debate in Dallas on Sept. 30 with different sponsors. 

Abbott’s reasoning behind his decision doesn’t really make a lot of sense. If a candidate, no matter their chances of being elected, decides to throw his or her hat into the political ring, he or she should be able to stand against his or her opponent in a debate. However, why should a front-runner like Abbott want to debate an underdog opponent like Davis? 

The last time an open gubernatorial election occurred in Texas where the front-runner candidate debated his underdog candidate, the end result wasn’t so good for the candidate originally on top. In fact, the debate between the candidates for the 1990 gubernatorial election, State Treasurer Ann Richards and Clayton Williams, resulted in Richards using Williams’ gaffe-prone qualities against him. After Williams made some tasteless remarks over rape and refused to shake Richards’ hand during the debate, Richards was able to win the election with a plurality.

Now, if I were Abbott, I wouldn’t want to risk debating Davis at all, even if the  debate’s format fit my tastes. Who knows what could happen? It’s possible that Abbott might channel Williams’ poor manners and remarks, actually giving Davis a chance to invigorate her supporters, pushing his own supporters to stay home and even siphon moderates away from the other side. She could actually win the election because of some calculated errors of Abbott’s, and I think he’s legitimately afraid of taking that chance.

However, as someone on the ballot for one of the most powerful statewide offices in Texas, Abbott should put his fears aside and hold the people of Texas above partisanship and politics. There’s a reason debates are held during elections, especially for those that determine the control of the executive branch of local, state and national governments. This reason, exchanging ideas over a set of given issues to help the electorate make an informed decision prior to voting, is what drives the idea of voting in the first place: Texans need a government that works for them, but how can that occur when the people voting aren’t making informed decisions? 

This isn’t coming from a partisan viewpoint; I’m not talking about UT students voting for Davis over Abbott, and I’m not talking about them voting for Abbott over Davis. What I’m talking about is that UT students and other students across the state deserve to know what the candidate they plan to vote for believes before actually heading to their nearest polling place. Students can’t make that decision when all they hear is mudslinging on television ads and biased press coverage in the media. Students can and will make that decision only when they hear the candidates’ beliefs from the candidates themselves.

Milburn is a journalism freshman at Austin Community College. He is from Richardson.

The Wendy Davis campaign: Desperate times call for disgusting measures

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis makes a stop at the Family Crisis Center in Harlingen, Texas, Friday, Aug, 8 2014, to speak on the topic of domestic violence and the efforts she has made to help the victims of this crime. (AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, Maricela Rodriguez)

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis makes a stop at the Family Crisis Center in Harlingen, Texas, Friday, Aug, 8 2014, to speak on the topic of domestic violence and the efforts she has made to help the victims of this crime. (AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, Maricela Rodriguez)  

The desperation of the Wendy Davis campaign for governor has long been a subject of light derision thanks to the many fumbles of the state senator’s team. But the most recent thoughtless act born out of desperation is absolutely disgusting. With less than three months until the general election, the Davis campaign has finally released an ad reminiscent of one aired by the Ann Richards campaign, which referenced an insensitive remark made by Richards’ opponent Clayton Williams about rape during the 1990 gubernatorial race. The Richards ad was highly effective and largely responsible for her victory. But Wendy Davis is no Ann Richards, and the extremely disturbing ad has made me lose any modicum of respect for the gubernatorial candidate.

The Davis ad, which leaves very little to the imagination, references an instance in which a woman was sexually assaulted by a Kirby vacuum salesman whom she had let into her home for a demonstration. She sued Kirby Vacuums because there was no background check conducted on the salesman, who was on probation for a sex crime. At the time, current Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is also Davis’ opponent, was an associate justice on the Texas Supreme Court. When the case reached the high court, Abbott wrote a dissenting opinion because, according to him, the manufacturer was not responsible for the local distributor’s hiring process; the local distributor employed the vacuum salesman. The highly dramatized ad along with torrential winds, shows the salesman entering the home, the woman’s children sleeping, a door shutting and the salesman leaving the house.

In an effort to portray Abbott as someone who will relentlessly side with corporations even in the horrific case of sexual assault, the incompetency of the Davis campaign has yet again come to light by exploiting what I am sure is a painful memory for the victim. Additionally, it’s hard to believe that Abbott, who has spoken out against human trafficking and obscene photography, has the same nonchalant attitude toward rape as Clayton Williams. The ad does not show a candidate who fights for women and against sexual assault; all I see is a desperate campaign that would rather go deep down in the gutter than accept a likely defeat.

Davis is an associate editor.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog post stated the victim was not contacted. The victim was not spoken to directly by the campaign, but by representatives from a Democratic group that supports the Davis campaign. According to Davis, the victim was told by the group that the issue could possibly arise during the gubernatorial race. Representatives from the Davis campaign did not speak with the victim directly before airing the commercial, however.