AUSTIN (AP) — Trailing in polls and money with three months left in the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Wendy Davis said Friday that her first television ad against Republican Greg Abbott will attack him for not siding with a rape victim while serving as judge in the 1990s.
Davis aides said the commercial — which shows a vacuum-cleaner salesman ominously entering a home for a demonstration — has begun airing but would not disclose where. But hitting the airwaves is a key moment for a campaign that has garnered nationwide interest but struggled to gain ground.
Abbott’s campaign called the ad “despicable” and gutter politics.
The minute-long ad revisits a lawsuit filed by a woman raped in her home by a vacuum-cleaner salesman. The Texas Supreme Court in 1998 upheld a $160,000 award against The Kirby Co. by a 6-3 vote, with then-Justice Abbott being one of the dissenting voices.
“Greg Abbott sided with a corporation over a woman who had been brutally victimized,” Davis said Friday during a visit to a shelter in Harlingen for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
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Kirby argued that the distributor, which hired the salesman, was negligent for failing to check the criminal records of its staff. The company said it has the duty to hire competent distributors, but distributors have the duty to hire competent salespeople.
Abbott, now the Texas attorney general, wrote in the dissenting opinion that Kirby had control over where the work is done but not “who was to perform that work.”
Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse defended his record as attorney general on prosecuting sex offenders and protecting women and children from assault. She said Abbott’s opinion did not dispute the liability of the salesman and his direct employer.
“This ad is a continuation of the type of rhetoric we’ve seen from a candidate who is paper-thin on substance and running a failing campaign devoid of any real vision for the future of Texas,” Chasse said.
Davis has raised at least $27 million, which is already more than the last Democrat to run for governor in Texas. But Abbott began July with a nearly three-fold advantage in available cash, which could make it difficult for Davis to keep pace on television down the stretch.
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