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Davis Talks Border Voters, Abortion Rules at TribLive

During a TribLive interview, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis said she’s not concerned by primary losses in several border counties, and that she was a better option for South Texas voters than Greg Abbott.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis speaks with Evan Smith at a TribLive event in Austin, TX.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis said Thursday morning that she’s not concerned by her primary losses in several border counties, and that she was a better option for South Texas voters given the “fairly hostile statements” her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has made about the region.

“I am very confident that by the time we get to November, and given the contrast between these two candidates, that I will have the full support of those living in South Texas and beyond South Texas,” Davis said during a TribLive interview in Austin. 

Despite handily winning the statewide nomination, in several counties, Davis finished behind her primary opponent, Corpus Christi Municipal Court Judge Ray Madrigal. Madrigal had little statewide name recognition and did not raise or spend any money on his campaign.

The Abbott campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Davis’ remarks on Thursday. But campaign officials played up her lackluster performance on the predominantly Hispanic border — a region Davis must win to be competitive in November.

On the heels of the closure of two additional Texas abortion clinics on Wednesday, Davis said she didn’t see her filibuster on a restrictive abortion bill — which helped catapult her into an overnight sensation last summer — as troubling for her statewide appeal.

Instead, Davis said her filibuster helped demonstrate to voters that there was someone to fight for their freedoms, including “reproductive freedoms.”

In the interview, Davis slammed Republicans for limiting access to abortion and for what she called their intrusion into “most personal freedoms” — despite their claims that they believe in small government.

During a 2013 special legislative session, Republican lawmakers approved new regulations on abortion that require physicians who perform the procedure to have hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of the facility, and follow FDA standards, rather than common evidence-based protocols, for administering drug-induced abortions. The rules also ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. In September, additional rules take effect requiring abortion facilities to meet the regulatory standards of ambulatory surgical centers; only five of the 22 existing abortion facilities in Texas currently meet those standards.

Proponents of the new regulations say they improve safety standards to protect women's health at facilities that perform abortions.

Davis did not directly answer questions on where she stood on the 20-week abortion ban enacted by the state, but she did reiterate her stance that decisions related to abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.

“The Legislature can never fully anticipate whatever situation a woman may confront,” Davis said, adding that it’s difficult to claim that the Legislature hasn’t acted in ways that are hurtful to women during the last two legislative sessions. “What has happened in the last couple of legislative sessions has not been respectful to women.”

During the interview, Davis also went after Gov. Rick Perry, calling him a leader who has thrown partisan and divisive issues “on the table” for political gain. She said she looked forward to greeting President Obama when he travels to Austin in April for a civil rights summit. Republicans in Texas have largely targeted Democrats by tying them to the Obama policies they oppose.

Looking ahead at the next eight months until the general election, Davis said she wasn’t fazed by attacks on her biography or her family. She was referencing the scrutiny she fell under following the publication of a Dallas Morning News story questioning some of the details of her personal story.

A day after the story first ran, Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said Davis had “systematically, intentionally and repeatedly deceived Texans for years about her background, yet she expects voters to indulge her fanciful narrative.”

“I’ve been through a lot of tough battles in my life … I knew going into this race that I was going to confront a challenge,” Davis said. “Any amount of mudslinging, any amount of challenge that I go through in the last couple of months and the next eight months … I’m committed to it because I know how much and why it matters.”

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Politics 2014 elections Abortion