Republican attorney general

Gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and their student supporters have settled on equal pay and wage discrimination as the next key issue of the 2014 campaign.

Abbott said that as governor he would veto a state version of The Equal Pay Act or Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Davis has attacked Abbott’s position by arguing that existing equal pay laws are insufficient. The Equal Pay Act was a federal law signed in 1963 to prevent wage discrimination based on gender. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was a federal statute which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and stated that a person has 180 days to file a lawsuit for pay discrimination from when they received their paycheck.

Abbott said the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Texas Labor Code and the Texas Government Code have adequate provisions for equal pay already.

“If there are ongoing issues about equal pay, I don’t think the question is whether we need more laws. The question is whether those laws just need to be enforced better,” Abbott said in a statement. 

Amy Nabozny, history sophomore and College Republicans vice president, said she thinks current equal pay laws are sufficient because it’s already illegal to discriminate based on gender.

“It’s a waste of our legislature’s time and resources to be passing redundant legislation,” Nabozny said. “If there’s any issue in how the federal courts process these claims, then they should be looking to improve it there.”

Nabozny said she supports Abbott’s decision to veto additional legislation addressing equal pay in Texas.

“We already have laws protecting discriminatory action — period,” Nabozny said. “Right now, I am ashamed how Wendy Davis is victimizing women in order to gain ground in this race.”

Michelle Willoughby, government junior and Students for Wendy Davis community outreach director, said she thinks employers should offer paternity leave. Willoughby said if employers offer benefits for their male workers, they will stop viewing maternity leave as a downside to hiring women.

“If employers thought that young male employers were equally likely to take six to eight weeks off after starting a family and possibly drop out of the workforce for some amount of time, then they would be more likely to hire and pay women entering the workforce at the same rates they do with their male counterparts,” Willoughby said.

The Davis campaign could not be reached for comment.

Sarah Melecki, graduate research assistant and former chair of the Feminist Policy Alliance, said she thinks gender equality requires a combination of policy and social change.

“If a woman in Texas experiences wage discrimination, she has to take it up on a federal level,” Melecki said.

Melecki said increasing wage equality for people of all socioeconomic, gender and ethnic backgrounds requires that state or federal governments increase paternity and family leave, provide affordable child care and increase the minimum wage.

Melecki said although she thinks the Lilly Ledbetter Act was important and necessary, it does not address the needs of many women, such as those lower income or gay women.

“The people who are affected by [the Lilly Ledbetter Act] are mostly white women who have had the educational opportunities and have gone into a field that allows them to do that,” Melecki said. “Lilly Ledbetter is great and it’s necessary, but it’s necessary to look at women on all sides of the spectrum.”

Tuesday night, the four-way race for the Republican lieutenant governor campaign will be decided and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, will presumably become their parties’ gubernatorial candidates. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is running unopposed to be the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. 

Voting locations in Travis County will open at 11 a.m. because of weather concerns that also delayed classes for the University. 

According to UT-Texas Tribune polling data, the Republican lieutenant governor race will be a close one. Incumbent David Dewhurst polled at 37 percent, while state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, polled at 31 percent of the vote. Lagging behind were Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. To win, a candidate will need 50 percent of the votes.

The general election will take place Nov. 4.

According to polling released Monday, Republican attorney general Greg Abbott has an 11-point lead over likely Democratic opponent state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth in a race for the governorship.

The polling, conducted jointly by UT and The Texas Tribune, suggest Abbott has increased his lead over Davis since the last poll was released in October. Data gathered suggested that, if the governor’s race were held today, 47 percent would vote for Abbott and 36 percent of voters would choose Davis, while 17 percent remain undecided.

The poll also showed that incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst leads his opponents in the Republican primary with 37 percent of the polled voters, with state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in second with 31 percent. Dewhurst leads state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, in the general election for lieutenant governor 44 percent to 32 percent.

Incumbent U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s reelection bid was supported by 62 percent of likely voters, giving him an overwhelming 46-point lead over challenger Steve Stockman.

The survey of 1,200 adults was conducted from Feb. 7 to Feb. 17.

The election is still a long way off, with party primaries on March 4 and the general election on Nov. 4.