Texas Republicans picked the state's attorney general in the fight to succeed longtime Gov. Rick Perry, while a rising Democratic star coasted to her party's nomination Tuesday night during the nation's first statewide primary.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott easily won the Republican nomination and Democratic Fort Worth State Senator Wendy Davis formally clinched her party's nomination. She becomes the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since former Gov. Ann Richards.
Senator Davis has energized Texas Democrats, who haven't won a statewide race in 20 years but insist now is the time for change. Her Republican opponent, three term Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, is a well-known, well-financed and fierce social conservative.
State Senator Davis faced Ray Madrigal for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor.
Davis lead Madrigal 79% to 21% after the early vote came out. Davis had 175,993 votes while Madrigal had 48,112.
AG Abbott had three opponents in the primary. They were Miriam Martinez, Lisa Fritsch and a man named Kilgore who has run before but in 2012 changed his middle name to Secede. On the ballot, his name appears as Secede Kilgore.
Abbott lead 92% over his opponents with 537,046 votes.
Abbott kicked off his campaign for governor in San Antonio in July.
Tonight, he fully expected to celebrate a primary victory in that same city, courting Hispanic voters. The Texas attorney general said after voting Tuesday morning in Austin that Republicans "are going to reach out and be more inclusive" of different cultures than ever this election year.
His daughter and wife Cecilia joined him during the voting process. He pointed out his natural connection with Hispanic voters because Cecilia is Latina and a granddaughter of immigrants.
"I am multi-cultural by choice. This choice is one that is proving to be a genuine connection not only with me as a family but also between the Republican Party and the Hispanic community in particular in the state of Texas," he said. "This is something where, this will matter in regard to winning this election, but I think more importantly this is going to matter with regard to winning the next generation," said Abbott.
The Wendy Davis campaign for governor is the best hope for Democrats to take the governor's mansion in 20 years, but it won't be easy. She has some challenges to overcome.
Davis has been a state senator since 2009. She became famous for her more than 12-hour filibuster over sweeping new abortion limits during the Legislature's first special session.
On Tuesday, Davis appeared at the phone bank at her Downtown Fort Worth headquarters to make phone calls, asking for votes and encouraging people to get to polls.
Davis' real challenge comes after the primary. Abbott has around $30 million in his campaign war chest. Davis has roughly $11 million.
For Davis to beat Abbott in the general election, she'll need more fundraising. She'll need to hammer her message home in a broad, moderate, consistent but not conservative way in order to appeal perhaps to some, women especially, who would not necessarily call themselves Democrat.
The latest University of Texas-Tribune Poll has her trailing Abbott by 11 percent, a margin that's widened from 6 percent after questions were raised about the accuracy of her biography.
Following an article in the Dallas Morning News, Davis was criticized by political opponents who said she had deliberately distorted some of the details of her biography to embellish the story of a teenage mom struggling to attain a higher education.
Davis repeatedly mentioned her likely Republican rival Greg Abbott as the source of the attacks. Abbott's campaign has denied having anything to do with the article. But after it was published, an Abbott campaign spokesman said that Davis had "systematically and repeatedly deceived Texans for years about her background…and expects voters to indulge the story."
The two also sparred recently when Rocker and gun rights proponent Ted Nugent recently introduced Abbott at a campaign event in Denton County.
Aside from being a well-known musician, he's also well known for his disparaging comments about women and President Barack Obama.
Davis didn't hesitate to share her thoughts in early February about the duo campaigning together. "Greg Abbott's embrace of Ted Nugent and his ideals is an insult to every woman in Texas and should be an insult to every man, every husband, father, son in Texas. I think the fact that Greg Abbott is embracing those values is repulsive," said Davis.
KERA Radio's Shelley Koffler kept pressing Nugent about Davis' comments.
"Wendy Davis said you are a disgrace and an insult to all the women in Texas," said Koffler.
"It's disgusting, and Nancy Pelosi agrees because they are dishonest, anti-American people," said Nugent.
"But what about all the stories that have come out about your…," said Koffler.
"Those are stories, yeah," said Nugent. "They're lies."
"Wendy Davis made you a campaign issue today," Koffler goes on to say.
"She ought to because she hasn't got anything meaningful to campaign on, so she's got to be a Pelosi attack dog," said Nugent.
Then the questions turned to Abbott on whether it was wise to be associated with Ted Nugent considering some of his past comments, including one posted to YouTube last month from an interview with a gun rights group in Seattle.
In that YouTube video, Nugent said, "I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago, communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the Acorn Community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America."
"I don't know what he may have said or done in his background," said Abbott. "What I do know is Ted Nugent stands for the Constitution."
Abbott said that Davis calling attention to Nugent's presence was a political ploy.
"This is just a deflection mechanism by the Davis campaign to get the voters' attention off of issues," said Abbott.
When questioned about being associated with Nugent, Abbott said, "Wendy Davis is more associated with Barack Obama than anybody in the state. I don't think there's anybody in the state who is more disliked than Barack Obama. If there is this effect by relationship that they want to trump up, then that's a game that will be to the detriment of the Davis campaign because of their ties to Barack Obama."
The primary campaign for Davis has been the testing ground of her movement to rally the troops for the real battle for governor of Texas. "We will continue to do the same kind of thing we've been doing," she said at her headquarters on Tuesday. "I'm thrilled that our campaign has received the support of thousands and thousands of volunteers already around the state. What will be the natural consequence I think that will follow from today is an increased excitement and energy around the campaign as we move into the general election," said Davis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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