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AUSTIN -- Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott would not sign a measure to make it easier for women to bring pay discrimination lawsuits in state court if he were governor, a spokesman said Wednesday, hoping to get past an issue that has dogged the campaign for weeks.

Abbott, the state's current attorney general, previously refused to take a firm position on the proposed law known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which extends the statute of limitations for bringing lawsuits when an employer paid a person less because of their gender, race or religion.

Because wage discrimination is already against the law and because legal avenues already exist for victims of discrimination, Greg Abbott would have not signed this law, campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Fort Worth Sen. Wendy Davis, Abbott's Democratic rival in the governor's race, shepherded a state version of the act through the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013 only to see Gov. Rick Perry veto it. Middle class women are a key swing vote in the 2014 elections, and Davis's supporters know her longshot campaign depends on that key demographic.

Abbott first dodged a question on whether he would support the law in a televised interview on March 9, but the issue gained additional prominence this week after the female leaders of the Republican Party of Texas and a Republican women's political action committee suggested the wage gap was due to women having poor negotiating skills or too little free time.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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