Governor's Race
5:08 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Equal Pay Debate Emerges in Texas Governor's Race

Republican candidate for Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he would not sign a bill that would make it easier for women to bring equal pay discrimination suits.

It's the latest development in an emerging debate over equal pay between Democrats and Republicans.

Abbott has refused multiple times to talk about the Lily Ledbetter Act. Democrats began attacking him on the issue last week, when he refused in a televised interview to say whether he’d sign an equal pay law if elected. Last year, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a similar bill.

While Democrats pushed for an answer, conservative women in the state offered their opinions on the issue – which created some blowback of its own.

“We don’t believe the Lily Ledbetter act is going to solve that problem for women," Cari Christman, director of the new Red State Women PAC, said appearing on Time Warner Cable News. "We believe women want real world solutions to this problem, not more rhetoric. If Sen. Davis were serious about solving this problem she'd focus on job creation and increased access to higher education."   

She continued to say that women are too busy for equal pay laws. "It's just a busy cycle for women and we've got a lot to juggle and so when we look at this issue we think: what's practical?" she said.

The next day, Beth Cubriel, executive director of the Texas Republican Party, weighed in on the issue.

“Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators," Cubriel said on the same news.

Both comments have received national media attention and criticism from statewide liberal organizations. 

Cal Jillson, political expert at Southern Methodist University, says the renewed focus on Lily Ledbetter is an attempt by the Wendy Davis campaign to connect with women in a less polarizing way than other women’s rights issues.

“She doesn’t want to run on abortion," Jillson says. "She wants to run on a broader set of women’s equality issues. And this Lily Ledbetter equal pay act is a vehicle that will work for them.”

poll released this week by Emerson College had Abbott leading Davis among women.