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At Senate Candidate Forum, Republicans Take Aim at Davis

At a candidate forum on Wednesday night in Fort Worth, two Republicans hoping to replace state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, slammed her recent high-profile fight against new abortion restrictions in Texas.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, during debate over the state budget bill on March 20, 2013.

FORT WORTH — Whether state Sen. Wendy Davis decides to run for governor or not, Republican candidates are lining up to replace her in her home district.

At a candidate forum on Wednesday night hosted by the Tarrant County Young Republicans, GOP candidates Konni Burton and Mark Skinner bashed Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her recent high-profile fight against new abortion restrictions in Texas.

“[Davis] has opened the door for me with this filibuster,” Burton said. “She’s a liberal progressive, and I’m going to be shining the light on that.”

Burton, a Tea Party activist, has worked on the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. As the adoptive parent of two children, Burton slammed Davis for saying she was fighting for women's rights — a point Burton also made in a campaign video released earlier on Wednesday.

“Wendy Davis says she is standing for women, but she has forgotten the women that will never have the chance to stand for themselves because their lives were taken while they were still in the womb,” Burton says in the video, which features one of her daughters.

Skinner, the owner of a commercial real estate business, said he supports a complete ban on abortion and said the omnibus abortion bill recently passed by the Legislature ensures women’s safety.

“We want to continually chip away at abortion policies,” Skinner said. “We want to implement legislation that continues to knock that back from 20 weeks to 19 to 18.”

The omnibus abortion bill Davis successfully filibustered in the first special legislative session would have tightened restrictions on facilities that provide abortions and banned the procedure after 20 weeks. The bill was later passed during the second special session.

At a National Press Club luncheon last week, Davis — whose now-famous filibuster catapulted her into the national spotlight — said she would announce in the next few weeks whether she was running for re-election or for governor.

“No matter what Wendy Davis does, we need to be prepared to fight the best fight,” Skinner said.

Republicans targeted Davis' Senate District 10 race in 2012, but the GOP candidate, state Rep. Mark Shelton, lost by about 6,500 votes. A Shelton victory would have pushed Republicans in the Senate closer to the two-thirds majority needed to bring any bill to the floor for a vote.

At the forum, the candidates also addressed issues like education and transportation, and Skinner cautioned against making abortion the "flagship litmus test" of the 2014 elections. 

“Abortion is a key issue, but we can’t let our election process focus on one litmus issue,” Skinner said.

Despite the candidates’ criticism of Davis, she is leading the fundraising race. Davis raised almost $1 million in the last two weeks of June following her filibuster. Recent campaign finance reports show that Burton had raised $28,430 since entering the race in May while Skinner had not received campaign contributions before the end of June.

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Politics 2014 elections Wendy Davis