Another front has opened up in the cultural war that the 2014 Texas governor's race is fast becoming.
This time it involves the fight for the growing Hispanic vote and Attorney General Greg Abbott's contention that Democrats are cynically using his Hispanic wife, Cecilia, against him.
The whole thing started in heavily Republican Lubbock, of all places.
That's where Abbott was campaigning earlier in the week, staging what appeared to be a routine campaign stop to drive up his vote before the March 4 primary election he is all but guaranteed to win big.
Democrats took advantage of the event to bash Abbott and his fellow Republicans. Lubbock City Councilman Victor Hernandez, a Democrat, called Abbott's visit offensive, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Lubbock's Fox 34 News.
Noting that the get-out-the-vote rally was held in a local Mexican restaurant, Jimenez Bakery and Restaurant, Hernandez called the move "piñata politics," the newspaper reported.
“Greg Abbott came into our house uninvited, wanting to somehow give the illusion that the Lubbock County Hispanic community is supportive,” he said. Hernandez also blamed Abbott and other GOP candidates for using what he described as divisive rhetoric against immigrants, and he re-hashed the controversy over Abbott's recent appearance with controversial rocker Ted Nugent.
Abbott had introduced his wife at the event, saying — as he often does at campaign stops — that she will be "the first Latina first lady in the history of the great state of Texas."
When the subject of Cecilia Abbott came up at a press conference the Democrats held at the same restaurant on Wednesday, Hernandez said he did not "want to say a whole lot about his wife, because this really isn't about his wife. It's about her husband," according to the Fox story.
He also called on the attorney general to "go beyond the props of a background of a Mexican restaurant, and actually come to our community."
After the appearance, Abbott said from his Twitter account, "Ha! Democrats frustrated about my #Latina wife & growing connection (between) Hispanics & Republicans." He linked to the Fox story that quoted Hernandez.
In a subsequent tweet on Friday, Abbott expressed outrage that Hernandez had allegedly referred to his wife as a "prop."
"It's deeply offensive that a Democrat elected official called my Latina wife of 32 years a 'prop,'" Abbott wrote. He linked to a blog post written by former Republican Party spokesman Bryan Preston. In the post, Preston wrote that a "source tells me that Hernandez callously dismissed her as a 'prop.'"
Preston did not identify the person but said in a text message to The Texas Tribune that it was a "source I trust." Asked if he could provide any information about how and where Hernandez allegedly delivered the verbal slap, Preston said, "My source didn't go into detail."
"His comments even as reported are indefensible," Preston said in the text. "He's playing gatekeeper and dismissing all Hispanic Republicans and maybe independents."
Email and voice messages left for Hernandez were not immediately returned.
The episode is yet another indication that the race for governor will play out increasingly on the volatile terrain of culture and race. In January the Abbott campaign attacked his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, for spinning what it called an inaccurate and "fanciful narrative" about her early background and rise from single motherhood in a trailer to a law degree at Harvard University — the subject of heated controversy a month ago.
The two sides have also clashed over Abbott likening corruption in South Texas to "third-world country practices" and, more recently, Abbott's appearance with Nugent — who has referred to women politicians as bitches and once suggested undocumented immigrants should become indentured servants — drew rebukes from Democrats and their allies.
On the campaign trail, Abbott has often made references to his wife's Hispanic background. In a recent interview with Univision, for example, he said her elevation as first lady would make his administration "naturally a lot more inclusive and embracing of the growing Hispanic culture in the state."
But until now, Abbott's wife hasn't become the subject of division between the two sides.
Jeff Rotkoff, an Austin-based Democratic strategist supporting Davis, agreed it would be politically out of bounds if a Lubbock city councilman referred to Cecilia Abbott as a "prop."
"Of course it would be terribly offensive were anyone to refer to any candidate's family member as a prop," Rotkoff said. "By all reports, this did not happen."