Top gubernatorial candidates court cops in Austin
Posted on October 18, 2013 at 6:25 PM
Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 6:40 PM
AUSTIN -- Gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-Texas) both received warm welcomes from Texas peace officers Friday in Austin.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) is the state's largest union representing peace officers. Boasting more than 18,500 members across the state, CLEAT has avidly endorsed Abbott and worked closely with Davis during her time in the state Senate.
The attorney general is well known for his cyber crime unit targeting child predators, and presented CLEAT Friday with the shotgun photographed slung over his shoulder on the cover of the October issue of Texas Monthly to be auctioned off to raise money for fallen officers.
Davis was honored as this year's top legislator and presented with the Legislative Crime Fighter of the Year Award. The Fort Worth state senator's contributions to law enforcement include support for state Sen. Kirk Watson's (D-Austin) bill cracking down on the penalties for hit and run accidents, as well as successfully pursuing grant money for district attorneys along the border.
"That grant money has allowed the DA's to prosecute border crimes like drug and human trafficking more thoroughly," Davis told attendees at CLEAT's annual convention. Both candidates' remarks were received with enthusiasm and copious amounts of applause.
"We've had a good relationship with both, a longer relationship with Abbott," said CLEAT Director of Public Affairs Charley Wilkison, who characterized the collaboration with both as "fruitful."
Whoever the next governor is, Wilkison says cops are increasingly concerned over policies that politicize their job. One such example is a bill filed during the 83rd Texas Legislature that aimed to allow federal officers to be arrested for enforcing any new gun laws.
"There's a little bit of an undertow of anti-government, anti-law, and those are troubling whether they come from the left or right," said Wilkison.
The issue of guns itself could become one of the most contentious in the race for governor. Republicans are already attempting to portray Davis as anti-gun for her opposition to campus carry and loopholes allowing gun sales without background checks at gun shows.
On the other hand, during the 2013 legislative session, Davis voted for the school marshal bill. She also voted in favor of the bill allowing concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to keep their guns locked in their cars on college campus parking lots.
Yet when it comes to gun regulations, even law enforcement officers voice differing opinions.
"The inner city officers believe that more guns are more problems," Wilkison summarized. "And officers in the rural areas where you couldn't get to believe if you had more guns, you have the ability to protect yourself until an officer got there."
While endorsements are great, long time Texas politics watcher and Quorum Report editor Harvey Kronberg says being on law enforcement's bad side can be political poison.
"The worst thing that a politician can be accused of is being soft on crime and ultimately having law enforcement point the finger at them," said Kronberg. "That's bad."
For Davis and Abbott, it's a problem neither seems likely to face.