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Republican governors survive in Florida and Georgia

The GOP also takes away an open Democratic governorship in Arkansas

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — The Republican firewall held at the gubernatorial level across the South in the November 4 midterm election, with the GOP keeping endangered seats in Florida and Georgia and taking away a Democrat-held seat in Arkansas.

Republicans will now hold 11 of the 14 governorships in Southern states.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

In Florida, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist lost his bid to resurrect his political career in a battle with Republican Governor Rick Scott. Scott won narrowly in the Sunshine State, 48 percent to 47 percent

Meanwhile, up in Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal easily fended off a challenge from State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Deal took 53 percent, to 45 percent for Carter.

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

In Arkansas, where Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was term-limited, former GOP U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson – making his fourth try for statewide office – defeated former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross by a margin of 56 percent to 42 percent.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott crushed Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention last year after filibustering a bill restricting abortion.

Abbott took 59 percent of the vote, to 29 percent for Davis. Republican candidates have now won the last six gubernatorial elections in the Lone Star State.

Elsewhere in the South, Republican incumbents won easy victories victories in Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Democrat Wendy Davis under fire for controversial ad in Texas governor’s race

Ad notes that her opponent, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, uses a wheelchair

texas mugFORT WORTH, Texas (CFP) — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is defending a controversial new television ad noting that her Republican opponent in the governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott, uses a wheelchair and accusing him of being unsympathetic to other accident victims.

State Senator Wendy Davis

State Senator Wendy Davis

Abbott was paralyzed after a 1984 accident in which a tree fell on him while jogging. He received a reported $10 million settlement.

During a campaign appearance in Fort Worth on October 13, Davis, the Democratic nominee for Texas’s top job, insisted that the ad points out Abbott’s “hypocrisy” in opposing efforts by other accident victims to seek redress in the courts, as he did.

“Greg Abbot has built a career kicking the ladder down behind him and denying to others the very same justice that he both deserved,” Davis said.

The Abbott campaign has dismissed Davis’s ad as “disgusting.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

“Senator Davis’s decision to double down on her severe error in judgment is shameful and shows that she is unfit to be governor,” the campaign said in a statement.

Davis, who trails Abbott by double digits in most polls, has faced an avalanche of media criticism — from both the left and the right — since the ad began airing October 10.

The ad begins, “A tree fell on Greg Abbott, who sued and got millions. Since then, he’s spent his career working against other victims.”

The ad goes to criticize Abbott for arguing in court that an amputee wasn’t disabled because she had an artificial limb and for opposing a suit by a rape victim against a company that failed to do a background check on a sex offender.

The ad ends, “Greg Abbott. He’s not for us.”

Abbott has talked about his disability during the course of his campaign and even ran an ad showing voters how he rehabilitated himself by wheeling his chair up and down a parking garage.

View the Davis ad:

Texas governor’s candidate Wendy Davis says she would back 20-week abortion ban

Davis, who shot to national prominence for filibustering a 20-week abortion ban, now says she objected only to the way the law was written

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

texas mugDALLAS (CFP) — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, now says she would support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks as long as the final decision were left up to mothers and their doctors, rather than under circumstances defined by the legislature.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Last June, Davis garnered national attention by leading a more than 11-hour filibuster that delayed efforts by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to pass a bill that would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks.

That national attention helped fuel Davis’s entry into the governor’s race, where she is expected to face Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott.

But in an interview with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News, published February 11, Davis said she could have supported the bill if it had been written differently.

“My concern, even in the way the 20-week ban was written in this particular bill, was that it didn’t give enough deference between a woman and her doctor making this difficult decision and instead tried to legislatively define what it was,” she told the paper.

She said less than 1 percent of abortions in Texas occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and most of those are in cases where the mother’s health was in danger or there were fetal abnormalities.

“I would line up with most people in Texas who would prefer that that’s not something that happens outside of those two arenas,” she said.

The bill that Davis filibustered also required abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers and forced abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Davis also objected to both of those provisions.

Her filibuster ran out the clock on a special legislative session called by Governor Rick Perry. He promptly called another special session – which cost Texas taxpayers $800,000 – and the legislature passed the abortion restrictions, which are now being challenged in court.

After The Dallas Morning News reported Davis’s comments, her campaign insisted that what she said did not amount to a change in her position. But her comments lit up the message board on the newspaper’s Web site, where she was called “flip flop Barbie” and readers questioned the point of her filibuster.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Abbott has made Davis’s filibuster an issue in conservative Texas, telling a crowd of anti-abortion activists in January that Davis is “partnering with Planned Parenthood to return Texas to late term abortion on demand.”

Abbott has been defending the new abortion restrictions in court.

Davis’s latest comments on abortion come as her campaign was fighting back against questions about the details of her life story she has told during the campaign.

Davis has highlighted her past as a divorced teenage mother who lived in a trailer before working her way through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School. But in a January 18 story, The Morning News challenged some of those details:

  • Davis divorced at 21, not 19 as she has previously said, and lived in a trailer for only a few months after the divorce with her daughter, Amber, before moving into an apartment.
  • Three years later, she married for the second time, and her husband helped pay for the remainder of her education at TCU and law school at Harvard. Together, they had a second daughter, Dru.
  • She left her second husband, Jeff Davis, the day after the last payment was made on her student loans at Harvard, according to Jeff Davis.
  • When they divorced, Jeff Davis was granted custody of both daughters, and Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 in monthly child support.

After the story ran, Davis issued a statement clarifying some of the details of her life story. However, she defended overall impression left by her previous characterizations.

“The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce,” she said. “And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future, and that’s what I’ve done.”

Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis launches campaign for governor of Texas

Davis, who gained national attention for leading a filibuster against abortion restrictions, will likely face off against GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott.

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

texas mugFORT WORTH, Texas (CFP) – Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis has launched a bid for Texas governor, hoping to ride notoriety from her filibuster against new abortion restrictions last summer all the way to the Lone Star State’s top office.

Davis, 50, kicked off her campaign at a high school in suburban Fort Worth. But despite her very public association with the issue of abortion, she did not mention the a-word during her opening announcement.

Instead, Davis chose a populist focus on fulfilling what she called “the promise of Texas,” including improving education and battling big-money interests in state politics.

“Real leaders know that real problems deserve real solutions,” Davis said. “That’s the approach I brought to Austin, and that’s what I’ll do as your next governor.”

Davis, a single mother who worked her way through college and then Harvard Law School, also said that “Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans.”

Texas State Senator Wendy David

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

With no other major Democrat yet in the race, she is seen as the most likely opponent for the expected Republican nominee, Attorney General Greg Abbott. The incumbent, Governor Rick Perry, is retiring after 14 years in office.

Given that no Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994, Abbott starts the race as the prohibitive favorite. He also currently has a more than 20-to-1 advantage in fundraising over Davis, although her national profile will probably enable her to narrow that gap.

However, a poll released October 2 by the Texas Lyceum, a non-partisan public interest group, showed Abbott leading Davis by only an eight-point margin, 29 percent to 21 percent, with half of Texas voters saying they’re still undecided. (The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.)

While Abbott’s lead is slight, the poll also showed that 55 percent of Texans approved of Perry’s job performance and 62 percent thought the state’s economy was better than the national economy — both figures that bode well for the GOP nominee.

Davis, who represents a Fort Worth-area district, is best known nationally for leading a more than 11-hour filibuster last June that delayed efforts by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to pass a anti-abortion bill.

The bill would have prohibited bill abortions after 20 weeks, required abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers and forced abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Her filibuster ran out the clock on a special legislative session called by Perry. He promptly called another special session – which cost Texas taxpayers $800,000 – and the legislature passed the abortion restrictions, which are now being challenged in court.

Republicans who supported the measures said they were an effort to protect the health of women getting abortions at clinics and to protect unborn children past the fifth month of pregnancy. But Texas abortion clinics and their Democratic allies assailed the new rules, claiming that they would force many clinics to close and make abortions harder to obtain.


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