GOP's Greg Abbott, Democrats' Wendy Davis declare victory in first gubernatorial debate

Candidates debate border security, capital punishment, economic development, trade with Mexico, funding education

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

EDINBURG, Texas - Questions during the first gubernatorial debate ranged from border security, to capital punishment, to economic development and trade with Mexico.

However, the biggest point of contention came when state Sen. Wendy Davis sparred with Attorney General Greg Abbott over funding education.

Davis fired quickly and questioned Abbott on the Legislature's more than $5 billion in cuts to school funding during the 2011 session.

"That's not liberal, that's not conservative, it's just dumb," said Davis.

Abbott didn't directly address that jibe, but said he is fighting to better a system created in the last century.

"Get all these one-size-fits-all mandates from Austin, Texas, from off the backs of teachers," said Abbott.

The two largely agreed on the subjects of capital punishment, border security and health care for veterans. Abortion restrictions was a different matter.

"Women should always be able to make this most personal and difficult of decisions themselves," said Davis, who filibustered against tighter restrictions in Texas.

Abbott cited his faith when answering that question.

"I believe that all life is sacred and as governor I will develop a culture of life in this state," said Abbott.

Increasing minimum wage in Texas was another contentious point between Abbott and Davis. Davis supports a wage hike, while Abbott said an across the board increase would hurt business

"We don't need these Obama style mandates telling business how to run their business," said Abbott.

Davis used this opportunity to push her message that Abbott is a political insider.

"Once again my opponent is looking out for his insider friends, not for Texas families," said Davis.

Halfway through the debate the candidates were allowed to ask each other one question.

"Do you regret voting for Barack Obama?" said Abbott.

"Mr. Abbott what I am working on right now is running for governor," said Davis.

Davis then challenged Abbot to drop appeals of a court decision that ruled Texas' system of funding education was unconstitutional. The case grew out of the 2011 funding cuts, which prompted hundreds of school districts to file lawsuits against the state.

"Will you drop your appeals and allow our schools to be appropriately funded?" said Davis.

Abbott cited a law Davis supported that prevents the Texas Attorney General's Office from settling such lawsuits.

"My goal as governor is to work toward elevating the Texas education system to be ranked No. 1 in the nation," said Abbott.

Davis continued to push Abbott, but was reminded by a debate host not to directly rebut a candidate's answer. The candidates closed the debate with prepared statements.

"Texas is already great, but I'm running for governor to make it even better," said Abbott.

"I am you, because I have never forgotten who I am or where I come from and I will fight for you every single day," said Davis.

The second and last gubernatorial debate is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Dallas.

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