Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
FORT WORTH — State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, criticized Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday for his role in the recent federal government shutdown, saying he harmed average citizens just to score political points.
“I think he demonstrated that being the loudest person in the room isn’t necessarily equivalent to being a leader,” Davis said. “I was disappointed to see that he was willing to put so many thousands of Texas families in harm’s way for purposes of making a political statement.”
Davis’ remarks, made in response to a question outside an early voting location for the constitutional amendment election, amounted to her harshest assessment yet of the Tea Party-backed Republican. During her appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival last month, before the shutdown and debt ceiling brinkmanship roiled Washington, Davis noted that she and Cruz “agree on some things” and said politicians shouldn’t be afraid to say that.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier fired back, saying the senator's efforts to stop the Affordable Care Act were justified. She also favorably compared what Cruz did with Davis' summer filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill. The legislation, which eventually passed, includes a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“I think most Texans would agree that fighting to give them relief from a law that’s killing their health plans and hiking their insurance rates is a statement worth fighting for, as opposed to platforms centered on killing unborn babies after 20 weeks,” Frazier said.
Davis rejected comparisons between her actions and those of Cruz and other Republicans who tried to gain concessions on Obamacare by withholding funding for the government and opposing an extension of the nation’s debt limit.
“I was attempting to block a bill that would have harmed thousands of women across the state of Texas,” she said. “Never once, of course, did I threaten to literally shut down the state government for that purpose, and I certainly would never use the budget in the state of Texas for purposes of making a political statement.”
In the shutdown fight, Davis said thousands of Texans were harmed, and she called for a more bipartisan approach in budgetary negotiations.
“The concern is that we literally got to the brink of financial disaster. Political gamesmanship overtook common sense,” she said.
Davis was asked about a pending ruling in the court case over the abortion law, which Republicans passed over Democratic objections in a second special session, after the filibuster had temporarily halted consideration of it.
She said she didn’t want to speculate on what the court would do, but she expressed concerns that if the law were implemented, abortion clinics would not be able to meet the new standards included in the law and that many would close.
“The fear of course is that women will be forced to explore other alternatives for care, alternatives that may endanger their safety,” she said. “The purpose of the bill was purportedly to make women safer. I firmly believe that it wasn’t the true purpose of the bill, and that in fact women will now be jeopardized, their health will be jeopardized as a consequence of the possible enforcement of that law.”
Davis spoke about the shutdown and abortion law after voting in the constitutional amendment at an early voting location in Fort Worth. Three voters who support Davis, including a veteran who described himself as a lifelong Republican, joined the state senator in the voting booths.
Davis urged voters to support the propositions that give tax breaks to veterans and their families. She also spoke in favor of Proposition 6, the initiative that would provide some $2 billion for water infrastructure.
Davis said the funding was “a drop in the bucket” but called Prop 6 a “good start” toward generating the money needed to meet the water needs of a growing population.
Under the state’s new voter ID law, Davis was required to show a photo ID before voting. As it turned out, she was required to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that she was, in fact, the person whose name appeared on the voter rolls.
That’s because the name on her driver’s license contains her maiden name. It says “Wendy Russell Davis,” whereas the name on the voter rolls just says “Wendy Davis,” the senator told reporters afterward.
In her case, Davis said it was “a simple procedure.” Under an amendment to the voter ID law that Davis offered in 2011, voters with “substantially similar” names can have their votes counted as long as they submit an affidavit, according to the office of the Texas secretary of state.
“I signed the affidavit and I was able to vote without any problem,” Davis said. But the senator said women whose names are not considered substantially similar, due to marriage or divorce, may not have their voices heard.
She said that if the names are deemed to be different, women will have to show a certified copy or original of the certificate of divorce or marriage.
“For many women it will come as a surprise,” she said. “That’s my greatest concern, that women will show up to vote, they’ll be turned away because they don’t have that documentation.”