Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday distanced himself from a top campaign adviser’s controversial Twitter post, which re-broadcast the suggestion that Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is “too stupid to be governor.”
“I disagree with that statement,” said Abbott, who would face off with Davis if both win their party’s nominations for governor. “We want to make sure that this campaign focuses on the real issues that matter to Texans.”
At issue was a tweet by Abbott’s top consultant, Dave Carney. In it, Carney posted a headline and provided the link to an article about a recall election in Colorado involving gun rights. The headline said: “Total Recall in CO (and why Wendy Davis is too Stupid to be Governor).”
The article noted that Davis had spoken in favor of requiring background checks at gun shows and suggested the issue would cost her support in a Texas governor’s race.
The Texas Democratic Party pounced on Carney’s tweet, saying it demonstrated that Abbott’s campaign was “following a strategy of offending every woman voter in the state of Texas.” The party has also criticized Abbott for initially thanking a supporter who, in a Twitter message praising the attorney general, had called Davis a “Retard Barbie.”
Abbott, the front-runner in the race, later said that tweet was accidental and called the language his supporter used “reprehensible” and “completely unacceptable,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
The intense sparring over a couple of tweets, before Davis has even said whether she will run, suggests that a race between the two candidates would produce plenty of fireworks. Davis, who became an instant political celebrity after waging a filibuster that temporarily derailed a restrictive abortion law, has said she will either run for re-election to her Senate seat or for governor. An announcement is expected in coming weeks.
Abbott spoke to reporters in Round Rock on Monday after staging a meet-and-greet with supporters at the 620 Café and Bakery. The Republican front-runner was asked if he would debate his best-known GOP challenger, Tom Pauken, former chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and the Republican Party of Texas. Pauken has been pressing Abbott to debate him.
Abbott said he would debate any candidate in the race but wanted to wait to see who gets in. The filing deadline for the March primary elections is Dec. 9.
“We’re going to have plenty of time for debates once all the candidates get in the race,” Abbott said. “Whoever is in the race will be entitled to participate in the debate process.”
Abbott said he did not believe Pauken should be “picking winners and losers by deciding who gets into the debates.”
Pauken said if he would be happy to include any other "serious candidate" in a debate but wants to do it now because the primary is just a few months away. Pauken said Abbott should have to answer questions about the source of his political contributions, his plan for funding schools and his record on securing the state's porous border with Mexico, among other things.
"What a joke. The guy is a fraud. He is afraid to debate," Pauken said. "The guy is not a real conservative."
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.