AUSTIN -- Considered by many the top contender to become the next governor of Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-TX) has hit the campaign trail with confidence.
"I hope to call you governor," one supporter told Abbott during a meet and greet Monday at the 620 Cafe and Bakery in Round Rock. Abbott responded assuredly, "You'll be able to."
The enthusiastic crowd of several dozen gathered for the latest leg of Abbott's "Main Street Texas" tour stood in stark contrast to the anger expressed among Democrats last week. The incident in question came from Abbott advisor and former Perry operative Dave Carney, who on Thursday "retweeted" another user's post on the social media website Twitter taking aim at state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth).
@granitewinger: Total Recall in CO (and why Wendy Davis is too Stupid to be Governor) http://urbangrounds.com/2013/09/total-recall-in-colorado/ … via @robbiecooper #inquringmindsliketoknow
The same day, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer responded with a statement that read in part, "It’s clear that Abbott’s advisers are following a strategy of offending every woman voter in the state of Texas. A woman who worked her way from a trailer park to graduate from Harvard Law School with honors is anything but stupid. Women throughout the state know what it’s like to have their intelligence ignored and made a joke."
After a filibuster against controversial new abortion laws in June catapulted Davis into the national spotlight and forced another special session to pass the Republican-backed legislation, the North Texas lawmaker has openly contemplated a run for governor. Meeting with media after Monday's event, Abbott responded to KVUE's questions about the tweet, specifically whether he agreed with its characterization of Davis.
"I disagree with that statement," Abbott told KVUE Monday. "We're going to make sure that this campaign focuses on the real issues that matter to Texans."
"What we're talking about here today is a small business owner and the challenges that small business owners face," said Abbott. "And so our focus is going to be on creating jobs, keeping taxes low, keeping Texas the state that provides more opportunity than any other state. That will be our focus."
Abbott's primary opponent, former state party chair and Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken (R-TX), has challenged the attorney general to a number of Lincoln-Douglas debates. So far, Abbott has not committed, but on Monday suggested any debates would come after the December 9 filing deadline.
"There are other candidates that besides just we two, and I think we need to see who else gets into the race. We're going to have plenty of time for debates once all candidates get into the race, but also in ways that all candidates have equal access," said Abbott. "I don't think that he should be picking winners and losers by deciding who gets into the debates."
"Whoever's in the race will be entitled to participate in the debate process. And there will be debates during the course of the campaign," Abbott said when pressed. "We need to wait till the filing deadline to see who's in and who's not in, and we need to make sure everyone who's running has an equal opportunity to get their voice out there to see what they stand for."