On Nov. 4, Texans will elect a new governor for the first time in 14 years. We think that new governor should be Democrat Wendy Davis.
Davis and her Republican opponent, long-serving Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, offer voters sharp, competing visions for the state’s future. Davis’ positions on education, health care and economic fairness make her the best candidate to meet the looming challenges unparalleled growth has brought the state.
First elected to the Texas Senate in 2008 when she beat the Republican incumbent in her conservative Fort Worth district, Davis, 51, made national headlines on June 25, 2013, when she filibustered a restrictive abortion bill. Her protest was not her first filibuster, however. Davis eloquently opposed disastrous funding cuts to education at the end of the 2011 legislative session and played an important role in persuading legislators to restore most of the education money during the 2013 session.
Davis lists public school education as a priority. She has called for funding full-day pre-kindergarten programs — a proposal that she says would cost about $730 million but could be partially offset by closing corporate tax loopholes. She wants the Legislature to raise teacher pay. She has fought to reduce standardized testing.
Also at the top of Davis’ to-do list: expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Expansion would give hundreds of thousands of Texans health insurance and bring back to the state tax dollars that are being used elsewhere. To reject expanding Medicaid is to posture politically, Davis correctly says, and it comes at great cost to the state and its less-fortunate citizens.
In 2013, Davis sponsored legislation requiring equal pay for equal work for women, which Gov. Rick Perry vetoed. She also sponsored legislation during the 2013 session to audit the Texas Enterprise Fund — the results of which recently showed problems with Perry’s administration of the fund.
Davis has said she would veto legislation that repeals the state law that gives in-state tuition rates to students brought to the country illegally as children. Against a conservative Legislature, Davis perhaps would have to become known as Gov. Veto, but we think her tenure could prove surprising. She has a legislative record of working with Republicans and is a conservative Democrat on more issues than her liberal supporters want to acknowledge. She has the ability to pull together moderate Republicans and Democrats to forge what state legislators like to call Texas solutions.
Abbott’s response when we asked whether he also would veto an attempt to repeal the in-state tuition law was a lawyerly attempt at triangulation. He talked about favoring the law’s concept but said he found the law flawed in its current form and in need of a rewrite.
Abbott, 56, expressed concern that his party’s xenophobic rhetoric on immigration will put off Hispanic voters, whose values he considers consistent with Republican values. He told us he wants to set a tone and vision of inclusion as governor.
The trouble is, Abbott has positioned himself on the tea party end of the Republican spectrum the past several years. So despite producing an admirably detailed policy plan, we’re not confident he is the same candidate we have supported in previous elections.
There was a time we could have assumed Abbott would moderate his party’s worst tendencies on illegal immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, school choice and other issues, but no more. And recent decisions by his office protecting the source of the state’s execution drugs and clouding information about businesses that store ammonium nitrate and other dangerous chemicals have raised doubts whether he remains an unfailing advocate of open government.
Abbott famously has joked that his typical workday involves going to the office, suing President Barack Obama and the federal government, and going home. Whatever the legal merits of some of Abbott’s lawsuits, he has treated taking on the Obama administration as a game in which political points are scored. The lawsuits symbolize our growing doubts about Abbott.
In endorsing Davis, we don’t deny that her campaign has not lived up to the enthusiasm generated by her remarkable filibuster 16 months ago. Nor do we deny that polls, 20 years of statewide electoral politics and an atrophied Democratic Party infrastructure underscore what a stunning upset it would be if she were to win next month.
But conventional wisdom leaves us undeterred. Wendy Davis is the right choice for Texas governor.
Austin mayor: There are eight candidates hoping to be Austin’s next mayor. We endorse one.
Early voting for the Nov. 4 elections begins Monday. To read previous endorsements and search a City Council candidate database featuring video profiles, go to statesman.com/elections.