The Brief: Texas Political News for Oct. 4, 2013

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, announces her campaign for governor in front of a crowd of supporters in Haltom City on Oct. 3, 2013.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, announces her campaign for governor in front of a crowd of supporters in Haltom City on Oct. 3, 2013.

The Big Conversation

A flurry of honed attacks greeted state Sen. Wendy Davis on Thursday as she kicked off her campaign for governor.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, announced her candidacy yesterday at the auditorium in Haltom City where she received her high school diploma. In front of a high-energy crowd of about 2,000, Davis wove her own story of escaping poverty and overcoming hardship into a 15-minute speech vowing to improve public education and advocate for the working class. 

"In Austin today, our current leadership thinks promises are just something you make to the people who write big checks," she said. "But the promise I’m talking about is bigger than that. It’s the promise of a better tomorrow for everyone. Texas deserves a leader who will protect this promise. Texas deserves a leader who will keep it."

Republicans, however, wasted no time going negative against Davis, Democrats' best shot at winning the Governor's Mansion in two decades. In an interview with The Associated Press, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee and presumptive front-runner in the general election, took direct aim at Davis, calling her too liberal for Texas.

"Most of [Davis'] legislative record matches up with her liberal extremism on the abortion issue," Abbott said, referring to her high-profile filibuster of an anti-abortion bill this summer. "She is an extremist with regards to imposing the kind of spending and regulation that's reckless for government."

Of the filibuster, he added: "It was a spectacle. There were people walking around the Capitol chanting 'Hail Satan.' I don't think that's representative of where mainstream Texas is."

Abbott's comments came the same day his campaign released a new ad in which he promises to ward off "California-style government" and to keep Texas red. A new page on Abbott's campaign website also accuses Davis of trying to bring California values — "bigger government, expanding ObamaCare, late-term abortion on demand, and Bloomberg-style gun control" — to Texas. The state Republican Party also debuted a new website and video using a similar line of attack.

The anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life also joined the fray, unveiling a new radio ad — set to air this weekend — targeting Davis over her views on abortion.

"Wendy Davis puts late-term abortion ahead of our faith, ahead of our families, and ahead of Texas values," the ad says. "Wendy Davis believes terminating babies even after halfway through the pregnancy is okay. Wendy Davis is wrong on life, wrong for our children and wrong for Texas."

How Davis responds on the campaign trail to the attacks will become clear next week, when, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, she'll start traveling the state.

Culled

•    G.O.P. Elders See Liabilities in Shutdown (The New York Times): "On Wednesday at a private luncheon, several Senate Republicans — Dan Coats of Indiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — assailed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has led the movement to block funding for the health law. Ms. Ayotte was especially furious, according to two people present, and waved a printout from a conservative group friendly to Mr. Cruz attacking 25 of his fellow Republican senators for supporting a procedural vote that the group counted as support of the health law. Ms. Ayotte asked Mr. Cruz to disavow the group’s effort and demanded he explain his strategy. When he did not, several other senators — including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Coats and even Mitch McConnell, the minority leader — joined in the criticism of Mr. Cruz. 'It just started a lynch mob,' said a senator who was present."

•    Lieutenant governor candidates spar over pay, pensions (Austin American-Statesman): "Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the three Republicans who want to boot him from office bickered fiercely Thursday night over what direction Texas should take in coming years on issues ranging from the mushrooming state debt and clogged highways to border security and state spending. … Among several pointed exchanges during the debate sponsored by, and packed with, tea party activists, the liveliest dogfight during the evening was one over whether state officials should be allowed to collect a state paycheck and a retirement check at the same time. … State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston blasted Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson for saying he would collect his state retirement while serving in the state’s No. 2 post and taking its $600-a-month salary. Patterson answered that he didn’t have Patrick’s wealth, insisting that not only the wealthy should be able to hold the office. 'Like the rest of us, you could have a job,' Patrick shot back."

•    Van de Putte still mulling run with Wendy Davis (San Antonio Express-News): "Before state Sen. Wendy Davis was finished announcing her gubernatorial campaign, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was surrounded by well-wishers Thursday urging her to join the ticket as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Van de Putte reveled in the attention while trying — with little success — to refocus the discussion on Davis, insisting she hasn't made up her mind on running. … Asked if Davis has encouraged her to join the ticket, Van de Putte demurred, 'Wendy calls me every day, yeah.' And pressed for details about the timing of her decision, Van de Putte said, 'it'll be within the next 10 days to two weeks. People think I'm being coy, I'm not. It's a lot to ask my family.'"

•    Congressman Confronts Park Ranger Over Closed WWII Memorial (NBC Washington): "Conflict over the responsibility for the government shutdown got personal at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Wednesday when a member of Congress confronted a U.S. Park Service Ranger over access to the closed park land. The congressman was Randy Neugebauer, a Republican representing Texas. He confronted the ranger in the middle of a crowd of tourists as she was keeping most of the public out of the closed World War II memorial. … 'How do you look at them and... deny them access?' said Neugebauer."

•    Education commissioner speaks on Texas example, visits colonias during Valley tour (The Monitor): "Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said during a visit to the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday that given the predicted minority-majority demographics of the nation, he thinks the state will serve as an example for others. … Williams, once a federal prosecutor and chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, struck the tone of a sermon while giving remarks. He said he planned to speak on the challenges facing education, but changed his mind once he met Weslaco students and that he 'came to praise some good.'"

Quote to Note: "Sen. Cruz is now joint speaker." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor Thursday criticizing Ted Cruz's new push for piecemeal government funding bills

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