Abbott & Davis Land Jabs, Offer Few Policy Specifics in Final Debate

Oct 1, 2014

Credit KERA via Texas Tribune

Republican Attorney Greg Abbott and Democrat State Sen. Wendy Davis met for a second and final debate in Dallas last night.

There was plenty of sniping: Abbott alleged Davis profited from an incentive while she served on Fort Worth's city council and Davis vilified Abbott for his alleged lack of oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund.

But both made sure voters understood their ideological differences – even if their policy specifics remained a little fuzzy – and tried to use the night to gain momentum ahead of Election Day next month.

Many voters knew heading into the debate where the candidates stood on social and other hot-button issues. Abbott supports abortion restrictions, Davis does not. Davis is for marriage equality, Abbott is not. Both actually think the Congress has failed in not passing comprehensive immigration reform. But, in the end, voters didn’t learn anything new about those topics.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott spent the hour trying to paint his opponent, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, as just another liberal Democrat. Focusing on Davis's support of abortion and the Affordable Care Act.

“You want to impose Obamacare on the people of Texas so badly, that even if the conservative Texas Legislature would not vote to approve it,” he said. “You would go around the legislature and use an executive order.”

For Davis, the night was all about trying to land a solid punch that can help her charge into November. She attacked Abbott on the Texas Enterprise Fund, education funding, the Texas Dream Act and abortion.

“Greg Abbott on the other hand, believes it is his right to intrude, even when a woman has been the brutal victim of a rape, a brutal rape, or has been the victim of incest,” Davis said of her opponent's view on abortion restrictions.

But, when they waded into specific policy, both candidates provided broad, if not vague, answers on critical issues like transportation and education.

Both candidates said they want Texas to have an “elite “public school system.

“We do that by starting with the fundamental building blocks for reading and writing from the very beginning,” Abbott said.

Abbott's plan calls for more classroom control, less testing, and the use of advanced technologies. But how will the state pay for it? Senator Davis summed up both candidate's answers.

“That comes at a price, but the question to ask is what price will we pay as a state if we don't,” Davis said.

When asked about transportation funding, candidates took similar swerves. Both said the state can build new roads without raising taxes by ending the current diversion of billions that are collected for road construction, but spent on other things in the state budget.

“That plan would allow us to capture an additional $4 to 5 billion, with a gradual step-down and a plan to fill the hole where those diversions would end,” Davis said.

Abbott laid out his own three point plan on funding roads. His first step echoed the need to end diversions, with his second and third steps allocating part of the oil and gas severance tax to pay for roads and using sales taxes on cars to fund roads.

Both say they will not expand the use of toll roads, but neither expanded on the real difficulty of ending the billions in transportation diversions without cutting something else in the budget, or finding another way to raise revenue.