Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott to Square Off Friday Night in First of Two Debates

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Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott to Square Off Friday Night in First of Two Debates

Andrea Grimes

Davis, a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, initially challenged her Republican opponent to six debates, to be hosted in cities across Texas, but Abbott refused, saying he would participate only in the two televised debates he'd already agreed to.

Texas gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott will square off Friday night in the first of two televised debates, this one broadcasting from Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley.

Davis, a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, initially challenged her Republican opponent to six debates, to be hosted in cities across Texas, but Abbott refused, saying he would participate only in the two televised debates he’d already agreed to—one on September 19 in the Valley, and a second later in the month in Dallas hosted by the ABC news affiliate WFAA.

Abbott, the state attorney general, subsequently dropped out of the second Dallas debate, saying he didn’t like the town hall format and would only participate in a seated debate without a live audience. A new second debate has been rescheduled to air September 30 on KERA, Dallas’ PBS affiliate.

This year will be the first time since 2002 that Texans elect a new governor, after Rick Perry announced he would not seek a fourth term in office. Despite the fact that Abbott is not the incumbent, he’s been leading in statewide polling and echoing the actions of his Republican predecessors, who have historically been reluctant to participate in statewide debates, opting to delay or cancel appearances against their opponents.

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The Abbott campaign released its first anti-Davis attack ad this week, accusing her of ethical violations during her tenure on the Fort Worth City Council, though the Dallas Morning News noted that “there’s no evidence that her legislative actions violated state or federal law.”

The Davis campaign, for its part, has focused on challenging Abbott’s record on rape, focusing on a 1998 Texas Supreme Court decision wherein Abbott ruled that the Kirby vacuum company was not obligated to screen its employees for background checks after one employee raped a Texas woman in her home while on a sales call.

Tonight’s debate will air at 6 p.m. Central time, and be broadcast on the McAllen Monitor website and in media markets across the state.