Friday's televised debate in Edinburg, Texas, gave both a chance
to appeal to Hispanics, an increasingly important voting bloc in a
solidly Republican state that has not elected a Democrat to
statewide office in two decades.
Abbott, the state attorney general, holds a commanding lead in
polling and fundraising over Davis, a state senator who drew
national attention with an ultimately unsuccessful filibuster which
sought to stop legislation restricting abortion.
Edinburg is in Hildago County, which is 91 percent Hispanic and
where about one in three people live in poverty.
Among the contentious issues covered in the debate were voter ID
laws, and the management of a border crisis that in recent months
saw thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America
crossing into Texas from Mexico, thrusting the Rio Grande Valley
into the national spotlight.
"I'm in favor of requiring voter IDs," said Abbott. "Voter fraud is
real and the voter IDs is the only way to stop it."
Davis accused her opponent of defending "a law to suppress minority
voting," referring to federal court rulings that the state's voter
ID regulations and changes to the redrawing of electoral boundaries
that were defended by Abbott are discriminatory toward Hispanics.
She has focused her campaign on education, women's rights, equal pay
and her personal story of overcoming poverty to attend Harvard Law
Both parties know the booming Hispanic population in Texas could
upend Republican dominance by 2030 when Hispanics, who are
Democrat-leaning, become a majority in the state.
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Abbott and Davis both have campaigned in south Texas and their
campaigns have Spanish-language websites. Democratic Latina State
Senator Leticia Van de Putte is running for lieutenant governor and
Abbott has made his Hispanic wife, Cecilia, a prominent part of his
Abbott's first television commercial was produced in English and
Spanish, and featured an endorsement by his Hispanic mother-in-law,
Mary Lucy Phalen.
"The Hispanic vote is very important to both parties for different
reasons," Republican strategist Bill Miller said. "Democrats need a
very big turnout if they hope to win, and Republican are trying to
hold their own."
(Reporting by Marice Richter in Dallas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and
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