Davis, Abbott exchange attacks over equal pay, legal clients

AUSTIN -- State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) began a blustery day in Houston with a blistering attack on her opponent in the race for governor.

As attorney general, Greg Abbott took huge pay raises while he defended unfair pay in court, she said at a media conference Wednesday morning.

Davis' contention centers on a 2011 lawsuit filed by a female Prairie View A&M professor citing pay discrimination, which Abbott successfully defeated in court. The Texas Supreme Court ruled the 180-day statute of limitations for claiming discrimination under state law had expired by the time Diljit Chatha formally accused the university of race and nationality-based pay discrimination.

Davis further criticized Abbott for accepting pay raises and increased funding for the office of attorney general approved by the legislature.

The fact that he took those pay raises while at the same time arguing that hardworking Texans should only be allowed 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts is what's at issue here, Davis told KHOU, KVUE's sister station in Houston.

The line of attack comes following an interview with Dallas sister station WFAA last week. While Abbott promised to enforce equal pay laws, he stopped short of saying whether he'd veto a stronger law passed by the Texas legislature to mirror the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act. Just such a bill, authored by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and sponsored by Davis in 2013, was vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

I fully expect women to be paid what men are paid. There shouldn't be any differential in payment because of sex. I'm proud to say that Texas is one of the few states in the nation that has a constitutional protection against sexual discrimination of any type, Abbott said.

Abbott's campaign declined to comment on the pay discrimination lawsuit. The attorney general has defended similar criticisms of his legal record by emphasizing his constitutional duty to defend the laws of the state. Past Texas attorneys general have exercised considerable leeway regarding how forcefully to defend certain laws.

In a conference call Tuesday, Davis stated, At some point in time he has to take responsibility for the fact that he is defending laws that are not in keeping with the values of every day Texans.

Meanwhile, Abbott's campaign has launched a new website criticizing Davis for raising money out of state and continuing to represent public sector clients through her law practice. Davis' campaign voluntarily released a list of her public sector clients last week, along with descriptions of the nature of her work on their behalf:

  • D/FW International Airport -- Newby-Davis law firm serves as co-bond counsel.
  • Tarrant Regional Water District -- Hired by McCall Parkhurst as co-bond counsel on TRWD bond issuances.
  • Fort Worth ISD -- Provided legal advice on the Open Meetings Act; hired by Kelly, Hart & Hallman as co-bond counsel on a FWISD bond issuance.
  • Benbrook Water Authority -- Third-party contract review; work on accomplishing an election date change with DOJ.
  • North Texas Tollway Authority -- Real estate acquisition for southern extension of Chisholm Trail Parkway; delinquent bill collections work.

Sen. Davis was sent to Austin to work on behalf of Texans, but it appears the person who profited the most is Sen. Davis, Texans for Greg Abbott communications director Matt Hirsch said in a statement Tuesday. She misled the public, yet again, when she promised to stop representing her public sector clients more than five months ago but continues to reap lucrative contracts.

I've disclosed all of my public clients from whom I've derived personal income, again not because I was required to do so, but because I believe it was the right thing to do, Davis said Wednesday.


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