Fact Check: Greg Abbott at the State GOP Convention

With help from The Washington Post’s fact-checking platform Truth Teller, we’re analyzing the speeches that Texas’ candidates for governor and lieutenant governor gave at their respective state political party conventions.

Here, we focus on Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's remarks from his state party convention in June. Watch below as Truth Teller analyzes his remarks and incorporates fact checks aggregated by the Tribune and the Post.

 

Gun restrictions

"She voted to restrict Second Amendment rights, and she even said that she would 'happily' sign more gun restrictions into law." — TRUE

Asked about the claim, Abbott campaign spokeswoman Amelia Chassé pointed to a Texas Tribune article in which Davis discussed her position on gun shows. As a member of the Fort Worth City Council, Davis tried to impose restrictions on gun shows to ensure that people were buying from licensed dealers and would face background checks.

As governor, Davis said, she would leave it up to the Legislature to decide whether to require background checks at gun shows. She said she would “happily” sign a bill to that effect.

“If I were governor and a bill came to my desk that provided for background checks at gun shows, I would sign that,” Davis told the Tribune.

Davis campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said the Democratic candidate supports gun rights and has endorsed an open-carry law. Davis “fully supports the right for honest citizens to own, purchase and sell guns,” Acuña said. 

One nation, under God

"She took action against keeping God in our pledge of allegiance." — FALSE

Asked about this claim, Chassé pointed to the minutes from a 2002 meeting of the Fort Worth City Council, of which Davis was a member.

At the meeting, two city councilmen proposed a resolution “expressing the sense” that a federal judge’s ruling from days before was “wrongly decided and should be reversed.” That ruling, from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, held that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because of the phrase “one nation under God.”

The meeting minutes show that Davis supported a motion to table the councilmen’s proposed resolution. An account in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Davis “argued that the council should stick to legitimate city issues and noted that the ruling, later put on hold, didn't even affect Texas.”

Asked about it by the conservative Daily Caller, Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said: “Wendy Davis believes the entire Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional and has proudly recited all its words thousands of times.” He noted that, as a state senator, she voted in 2011 for a bill that added the phrase “one state under God” to the pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag during a state flag retirement ceremony.

Given that Davis’ “action” was against a resolution that would not have had any meaningful effect, and given her voting record as a state lawmaker, we rate Abbott’s comment as false. 

Pro-life?

“And she stood for 13 hours to advocate for abortion even after five months of pregnancy. Of all things, she then said she was ‘pro-life’ because she wants every child to have a chance in life.” — TRUE

After Davis’ well-known filibuster of a bill that, among other things, outlawed abortion after 20 weeks and imposed stricter requirements on clinics that provided abortions, she drew criticism from abortion opponents for describing herself as “pro-life” at a November campaign stop at the University of Texas at Brownsville, according to the Valley Morning Star.

Davis later clarified her comment, saying, “To be pro-life doesn’t necessarily end with a woman’s pregnancy, and in Texas, the point I was making was we need to think of life at all stages.”

We rate this claim as true.

Taxing seniors

"She didn’t just vote to raise taxes, she specifically targeted seniors and the disabled for higher taxes” — FALSE

For this claim, Chassé pointed to several news stories recounting how Davis, on the Fort Worth City Council in 2007, voted against a property tax freeze for seniors and the disabled. She was the only member to oppose the tax freeze, with one other person abstaining.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, under the ordinance that Davis voted against, “tax bills would be frozen at the 2007 level for people who are already disabled or over 65.”

But did Davis actually vote to raise taxes? Asked for a specific example, Chassé pointed out that property tax revenue in Fort Worth grew from about $180 million to $325 million from 2001 to 2007. What Chassé didn't say is that during the same period, the property tax rate actually fell.

In fact, Acuña said Davis “repeatedly supported budgets that cut the property tax rate” overall, noting that property tax rates in Fort Worth fell from 89.75 cents to 85.5 cents per $100 valuation during her time on city council. City budgets show an expansion of the tax base was responsible for much of the increase in revenue, despite falling rates.

Oil and gas

"She supports Barack Obama’s EPA war on the Texas energy industry." — IT’S COMPLICATED

For this claim, Chassé referred to an audio recording of a 2010 hearing of the Environmental Protection Agency in Houston. Dan Buda, who was then Davis’ chief of staff, spoke in favor of stricter standards the EPA proposed for smog-causing pollutants, including ground-level ozone.

“As EPA continues to study the issues and implement policies and regulations, Sen. Davis urges you towards the 0.06 parts per million standard for ozone,” Buda said.

The 0.06 parts per million rule, as reported by The New York Times, was a tighter limit than the 0.075 ppm limit previously imposed by the Bush administration. In its proposal, the EPA estimated that complying with the new standard would cost between $19 billion and $90 billion per year but would be offset by health benefits from improved air quality, which it valued at $13 billion to $100 billion per year.

Acuña disputed Abbott’s claim that Davis was antagonistic to the energy industry. During her tenure on the Fort Worth City Council, the city for the first time allowed fracking but limited noise, kept most drilling 600 feet from homes and spelled out duties for local inspectors. Davis told The Texas Tribune in March that she was proud of her work with the oil and gas industry.

“On the Fort Worth City Council, we promoted the industry while making sure drilling in urban areas was safe and respected individual property rights and communities,” Davis said in a statement. “We must continue to support this industry, and its growth, while having common sense disclosure to protect homeowners, communities and first responders.”

Given Davis’ track record, which includes support for both drilling rights and tighter limits on pollution, Abbott’s claim that she supports a “war” on the energy industry deserves more scrutiny.

Expanding the Affordable Care Act

"She’s already said that she would expand Obamacare in Texas." — TRUE

Davis has vocalized her support for expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for low-income Texans. Medicaid expansion was a tenant of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to provide coverage for people living below 138 percent of the federal poverty line — many of whom do not qualify for subsidies in the health care law’s insurance marketplace. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government could not require states to expand Medicaid but that states could voluntarily opt into the program. The federal government would fund 100 percent of states’ cost for expanding Medicaid through 2016, gradually decreasing to 90 percent in 2020.

Texas’ Republican leadership has vehemently opposed Medicaid expansion, but some Democratic lawmakers — including Davis — have recommended that the state do so, citing Texas’ uniquely high rate of people without health insurance.

Abbott’s claim, therefore, is true, though it merits some clarification.