Abbott dismisses Davis criticism over author

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Republican candidate for governor, center, is hugged by his wife, Cecilia, during his victory party, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (AP) — Republican Greg Abbott on Thursday defended citing conservative scholar Charles Murray in his education plan after attacks by Democrat Wendy Davis in their race for Texas governor.

Murray is a best-selling author who currently works for the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

In a 26-page early education plan released this week, Abbott wrote that family background has “the most decisive effect” on student achievement and performance gaps. The claim is cited to a 2008 book by Murray.

The Davis campaign has criticized Abbott for citing Murray and seized on a 2005 column in which Murray wrote that men are more aggressive and competitive than women.

Abbott on Thursday said Murray is often widely cited and ran down a list of mainstream publications that have published Murray’s work.

“They get involved in petty things like looking at some comment that someone may have made who was cited in a footnote,” Abbott said.

Abbott was put on the defensive in February after a campaign stop with shock-rocker Ted Nugent, who a month earlier had called President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” Abbott initially said he wasn’t aware of Nugent’s divisive comments but later acknowledged the remarks that were condemned by Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans.

Education is a dominant issue in the race to succeed Perry next year. Davis has called for higher-quality prekindergarten and expanded eligibility, while Abbott is proposing more prekindergarten funding for districts only if higher standards are met.

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