Abbott: Democrats discriminating against Hispanics with voting maps

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 19 at 7:45 AM

AUSTIN -- One of the most recognizable faces in Texas college sports, former University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy on Thursday introduced one of the most recognizable names in the Republican Party of Texas. 

"It's been way too long since we've had a Longhorn in the governor's mansion," McCoy told a crowd of Abbott supporters gathered at the historic Scholz Garten in downtown Austin. "I've been proud to call Greg Abbott a fellow Longhorn and friend.

Austin marked the final stop on Attorney General Greg Abbott's (R-Texas) five-day Texas tour which began with the announcement of his gubernatorial bid Sunday in San Antonio. After meeting with supporters, he spoke with KVUE about how a potential Governor Abbott would be different from his predecessor, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas).

"I bring to the office someone who's been challenged by being paralyzed," said Abbott, referring to the 1984 jogging accident in Houston that left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. "That means that I understand challenges that my fellow Texans face, and so I'm going to be working every single day to try to help all Texans rise above the adversity they face."

"Another difference is that I'm married to a Latina, and I've been connected with the Hispanic community for more than 30 years now," added Abbott. "I'm going to be reaching out and connecting with all the racial diversity in this state, and my wife could be the first Latina First Lady in the State of Texas." 

As Texas' longest-serving Attorney General, Abbott has defended in court several controversial changes to voting laws. The state's most recent court battle over redistricting involved voting maps drawn by the Republican-controlled 82nd Texas Legislature which a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C. ruled deliberately discriminated against Hispanic voters.

Defending the maps, Abbott questioned the constitutionality of a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required Texas to seek "preclearance" with the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes to voting laws. Texas was added to the list of jurisdictions required to seek preclearance in 1975 for discrimination against Hispanic voters. Asked how he would explain his defense of the controversial maps to Hispanic voters, Abbott pointed at Democrats.

"What bothers me is the fact that Democrats use redistricting laws to discriminate against Hispanics," Abbott responded. "I'll say that again. Democrats are discriminating against Hispanics, because Republicans had elected [state Rep.] John Garza, [state Rep.] Raul Torres, [U.S. Rep.] Quico Canseco and other Hispanics across the State of Texas."

"Because the Democrats wanted to redraw those lines, they got the courts to draw the lines in a way that pushed out Hispanic Republicans, therefore interrupting the connection that Republicans had already begun to make with the Hispanic community," said Abbott.

The legislatively-drawn maps were replaced by modified interim maps drawn by a separate panel of federal judges in San Antonio, which the 83rd Texas Legislature formally adopted during the first special session called by Gov. Perry. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act effectively ended the legal battle, at least for now.

Abbott counts the high court's ruling as a victory against an overreaching federal government, and one which he says his supporters indicate is their number one concern.

"They feel Washington, D.C. is intruding too much into their liberty, intruding too much into their lives," explained Abbott, whose tenure has been marked by confrontations with the federal government over everything from voting laws to the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. "And they want to make sure that as governor, I'll continue the fights that I've waged asttorney general."

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