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At Senate Candidate Forum, Republicans Take Aim at Davis

FORT WORTH — Whether state Sen. Wendy Davis decides to run for governor or not, Republican candidates are lining up to replace her in her home district.

At a candidate forum on Wednesday night hosted by the Tarrant County Young Republicans, GOP candidates Konni Burton and Mark Skinner bashed Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her recent high-profile fight against new abortion restrictions in Texas.

wendy_davis“[Davis] has opened the door for me with this filibuster,” Burton said. “She’s a liberal progressive, and I’m going to be shining the light on that.”

Burton, a Tea Party activist, has worked on the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. As the adoptive parent of two children, Burton slammed Davis for saying she was fighting for women’s rights — a point Burton also made in a campaign video released earlier on Wednesday.

“Wendy Davis says she is standing for women, but she has forgotten the women that will never have the chance to stand for themselves because their lives were taken while they were still in the womb,” Burton says in the video, which features one of her daughters.

Skinner, the owner of a commercial real estate business, said he supports a complete ban on abortion and said the omnibus abortion bill recently passed by the Legislature ensures women’s safety.

“We want to continually chip away at abortion policies,” Skinner said. “We want to implement legislation that continues to knock that back from 20 weeks to 19 to 18.”

The omnibus abortion bill Davis successfully filibustered in the first special legislative session would have tightened restrictions on facilities that provide abortions and banned the procedure after 20 weeks. The bill was later passed during the second special session.

At a National Press Club luncheon last week, Davis — whose now-famous filibuster catapulted her into the national spotlight — said she would announce in the next few weeks whether she was running for re-election or for governor.

“No matter what Wendy Davis does, we need to be prepared to fight the best fight,” Skinner said.

Republicans targeted Davis’ Senate District 10 race in 2012, but the GOP candidate, state Rep. Mark Shelton, lost by about 6,500 votes. A Shelton victory would have pushed Republicans in the Senate closer to the two-thirds majority needed to bring any bill to the floor for a vote.

At the forum, the candidates also addressed issues like education and transportation, and Skinner cautioned against making abortion the “flagship litmus test” of the 2014 elections.

“Abortion is a key issue, but we can’t let our election process focus on one litmus issue,” Skinner said.

Despite the candidates’ criticism of Davis, she is leading the fundraising race. Davis raised almost $1 million in the last two weeks of June following her filibuster. Recent campaign finance reports show that Burton had raised $28,430 since entering the race in May while Skinner had not received campaign contributions before the end of June.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/08/14/senate-candidate-forum-republicans-take-aim-davis/.

The Brief: Texas Political News for Aug. 12, 2013

The Big Conversation:

If Gov. Rick Perry makes a second bid for the White House in 2016, there is mounting speculation that he may have some home-state competition for the Republican nomination from a certain junior senator.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz spoke to a gathering of evangelical leaders in Iowa Saturday, where he rallied the crowd of more than 1000 against a “bipartisan mess up” that has allowed an “ever-growing leviathan of government.”

ted_cruz“A lot of politicians in Washington in both parties are telling the American people it can’t be done,” he told the crowd. “The only way we win this fight is if the American people rise up.”

Though PPP survey last month found Cruz in sixth place in the state, behind other Republican hopefuls Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, the Washington Examiner says that may be because the state just hasn’t gotten to know him yet. The Examiner’s Byron York describes a “wildly enthusiastic reception” for the Texas senator, who “wowed the crowd, and then wowed them again.”

Cruz “dropped no direct hints about his future ambitions,” but Todd Gilman of the Dallas Morning News points out that the “ovations he drew could only encourage him” toward 2016 presidential trail. And if they do, Gilman notes, he does not have much to lose. With an open Republican field, he has little risk in alienating voters or “falling so flat as to hobble his career.” A possible defeat for the 42-year-old won’t leave him without a future shot at the job, and has the additional advantage of positioning him as a powerful member of Congress or as a top vice-presidential pick.

The appearance is Cruz’s second in the key presidential primary state, where he also recently spoke to a group of influential conservative pastors two weeks ago. Gilman reports Cruz will return there again in October to headline a state GOP dinner — and then he’ll hit first-in-the-nation New Hampshire for a fundraiser in October.

Meanwhile, as Perry rounds out his last term in office, his national media appearances and speaking engagements are keeping speculation of a potential return to the presidential campaign trail alive. But if he intends for those public remarks to help people “put aside the stumbles of his first White House run,” says Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News, so far, not so good.

She writes that a series of recent stumbles from the governor — like mixing Libya and Lebanon in a June speech to the Faith and Freedom coalition and saying he was in Florida instead of Louisiana during an August RedState blogger conference — may not make voters feel comfortable giving him a second chance. But, for that to matter, says Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, they have to be paying attention.

Right now, Jillson says, the general public isn’t paying attention. But he said those who are — the media, donors, party insiders — are only “confirmed in the impression that it’s going to be very steep uphill for Perry” to make it to the oval office.

Culled:

Charter Schools Presence In Churches Draws Both Praise and Concern: Since the charter school system was established in 1995, schools with ties to faith-based organizations have cropped up in cities across Texas. Critics have concerns about oversight and worry that faith-based instruction could enter some classrooms.”

Blue Texas: Eight Charts Show Why It Won’t Happen:Democrats don’t have a chance of snagging Texas in a competitive presidential election any time soon. That’s because Latinos in Texas are disproportionately ineligible to vote.”

White Male Democrats in Texas Are Nearly Extinct:White male Democrats once dominated Texas politics. But next year’s elections could leave five or fewer of them in the House.”

Texas Forensic Science Commission To Review Convictions Based On Hair Samples: “The commission wants to determine whether anyone has been wrongly imprisoned by identifying older criminal cases in which microscopic hair fibers were used to convict people of rape, murder, robbery and lesser crimes.”

Quote to Note: “They have too many white men, and we don’t have enough,” — State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, on comparing his party with the GOP.

Must-Read

New Laws Clearly Aimed At Boosting Transparency, Houston Chronicle

Texas Democrats Now Looking For A Pied Piper, Texas Tribune

Pastor Hagee Now Backing Gay Ordinance, San Antonio Express News

Natural Gas Fuel Use Could Be Long Haul, Even For A Pickup, Houston Chronicle

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/08/12/brief-texas-political-news-aug-12-2013/.