Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis on the Texas Truth-O-Meter
Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis made many claims battling to succeed Gov. Rick Perry.
Just before Election Day, here's our True-to-Pants on Fire rundown of our checks of some of each candidate's claims. Got a question?
Greg Abbott was right when he said he’d sued the Barack Obama administration 25 times. The count was up to 27 when we checked this claim in May 2013.
Wendy Davis is mostly right that weeks after accepting a $250,000 campaign donation from the chairman of the board of a hospital system, Abbott went to court against patients who say they were damaged by a surgeon working for one of the system’s hospitals. Unnoted in this Davis charge -- that Abbott’s intervention was limited to defending the constitutionality of a Texas’ tort-reform law the patients’ lawyers consider unconstitutional.
Wendy Davis is mostly correct that as a Supreme Court justice, Abbott found that a company whose vacuum cleaners were sold door to door "had no responsibility" in the hiring of a salesman who raped a customer. In 1998, then-Justice Abbott said the manufacturer had no duty, to be precise. Davis didn’t share that Abbott, unlike the court majority, considered most significant an existing agreement between the manufacturer and distributors explicitly giving full responsibility for such hirings to the distributors who, Abbott implied, had control over checking the background of applicants.
Wendy Davis is mostly right that Abbott helms a party favoring repeal of the Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. A call for repeal is in the platform of the Republican Party of Texas. But Abbott, the state attorney general since 2003, may or may not support repeal; he didn’t tell us. Also, he isn’t his party’s chief, though it’s fair to suggest any governor has a role in guiding his or her state party.
Wendy Davis is mostly right that women "are still paid 82 cents for every dollar a man earns in Texas." Her figure, based on a 2011 federal survey, reflects median earnings for adults who worked full time in the past 12 months, leaving out part-time workers. It’s also outdated in that according to the latest available survey, taken in 2012, Texas women earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by men (again working full time in the past 12 months), less than what Davis said.
Greg Abbott got it partly right that Davis is "fighting to bring ... Bloomberg-style gun control to Texas." Like Bloomberg, Davis (a Fort Worth state senator) supports background checks for all buyers at gun shows. She has opposed campus-carry measures, but voted to allow concealed weapons locked in vehicles while warning the author not to take it any farther. She has opposed letting the state tell cities or colleges they can’t regulate guns on their property, but voted to let the state pursue injunctions against cities that overstep limitations currently in state law. She joined most of the Texas Senate in voting for three laws simplifying concealed-handgun permit applications. Davis has taken some actions Bloomberg might approve, and others he might not. However, she hasn’t appeared to be "fighting" for tighter gun control if elected governor.
It’s partly so, as Wendy Davis said, that Abbott "has campaigned with a sexual predator who has bragged about having sex with underage girls." Aged rocker Ted Nugent, who stumped with Abbott this year, has talked about sexual escapades with much younger women though we found no confirmation of Nugent explicitly saying his victims were underage. Also, Davis’ statement could have given viewers the misimpression Nugent is a convicted sex offender, which isn’t the case.
It’s partly correct, as Wendy Davis said in a TV ad, that Abbott was "charged with overseeing the state cancer research fund. But he let his wealthiest donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars without proper oversight. They showered Abbott with gifts and free vacations." Abbott was on a big committee created to oversee such awards. But he designated an aide to act in his stead, not once attending. Also unsaid: Abbott’s office helped Travis County’s investigation leading to a staff member’s indictment. Also, the local district attorney said committee members weren’t suspected of wrongdoing. Finally, a major Abbott donor gave three trips, valued at more than $250 each, to Abbott’s family, but contrary to the ad’s message, that isn’t the same as all the campaign donors connected to institute grants showering Abbott with gifts and vacations.
It’s partly accurate, as Wendy Davis said, that Abbott defended more than $5 billion in public school funding cuts in fighting hundreds of school districts in court. This claim is missing important details and context in that the state attorney general has a legal duty to represent the state in challenges reaching the Texas Supreme Court, which the latest school finance lawsuits are expected to do. It would be unusual for an attorney general not to defend a law and legislative actions in such a suit.
Greg Abbott got it mostly wrong in November 2013 when he said that in "reality," there have "been no problems whatsoever" with the Texas voter ID law. None was not correct. News stories revealed various if rare experiences that could be construed as problems, such as voters having to scramble to get the proper ID. There also was a surge in provisional (largely uncounted) ballots, though we did not determine whether the ID law was key to that.
Wendy Davis got it mostly wrong saying that under Abbott, Texas 4-year-olds would be required to take standardized tests. Abbott wants assessments of the subset of Texas students who are enrolled in public pre-k at the start and end of each school year and he says a way of doing so would entail standardized tests. However, his proposal lists alternate assessment methods and says districts that volunteer for his pre-k program should be left to pick an assessment approach from options fashioned by the state.
Greg Abbott got it mostly wrong when he said in debate that a 2011 measure passed into law with Davis’ support "removes from the attorney general the ability to settle lawsuits just like" the school funding case. In reality, a 2007 law created the legislative hurdle for major settlements -- and, significantly, Davis wasn’t a senator then. Still, Davis joined nearly every other lawmaker in tightening the limit in 2011 by reducing the threshold for settlements the attorney general may reach without legislative sign-off to those costing the state $10 million or less.
Wendy Davis got it mostly wrong when she said Abbott did "nothing" to pursue reports of the sexual abuse of boys at a West Texas state-run school. In 2006, Abbott’s office reacted to a Texas Ranger’s report detailing such allegations by saying a local prosecutor needed to seek state assistance--and then a state lawyer reportedly did nothing more. But Davis’ charge ignored a pivotal development. In 2007, after the local prosecutor requested help, state attorneys overseen by Abbott steered a grand-jury presentation leading to indictments.
Greg Abbott got it mostly wrong saying Davis’ "legal work is currently under FBI investigation." According to news reports, the FBI has looked into an agency that’s relied on Davis for legal work--and her work may or may not be an element of the inquiry. However, the FBI has been silent about the inquiry and any Davis element and we gleaned no official confirmation otherwise of a focus on the senator. Notably, a Travis County prosecutor said in 2014 it’d be wrong to conclude his office’s mention of the FBI inquiry in a letter shows Davis under federal scrutiny. Abbott’s camp offered no evidence the declared investigation is "currently" happening.
Wendy Davis got it mostly wrong saying Abbott said it would be a waste to expand pre-kindergarten to all Texas children. Unlike Davis, Abbott wouldn't move now to fund all-day pre-k for all Texas toddlers. But he didn’t say what Davis suggested he did. Rather, Abbott said it would be a waste to offer pre-k to more students--without addressing quality.
Greg Abbott got it mostly wrong saying Davis is "threatening to raise taxes up to $35 billion." If Texas eliminated every state tax exemption, it’s reasonable to speculate that tax revenues would increase about $38 billion a year. But Davis wasn’t calling for an across-the-board repeal. In the cited interview, she didn’t even identify an exemption she believes has run its course. Rather, she favors a study involving legislative and public input before final decisions, which at the least leaves resulting tax effects unknown.
Wendy Davis made an inaccurate, ridiculous claim saying Abbott "and his surrogates have referred to women who have been the victims of rape or incest as though somehow what they are confronting is a minor issue." The individual in question, a Republican consultant who doesn’t work for Abbott, immediately clarified on the air he was saying few abortions occur after incidents of rape or incest. Also on the air, Matt Mackowiak agreed with the Democrat criticizing him that rapes and incest aren’t minor things. Davis’ camp later identified no other people who declared incest and rapes to be minor things nor did we encounter evidence Abbott said anything of the sort.
Greg Abbott made an inaccurate, ridiculous claim in saying Texas has had about 3,000 murders" in connection with lax border security. He relied on a state presentation indicating that 203,000-plus immigrants jailed in Texas in recent years together accumulated 3,070 homicide charges (not convictions) in their lives. These individuals included people living here with legal permission and people here without authorization. Significantly, the presentation doesn’t show the homicides were committed by non-citizens living here without legal permission. Also, it’s silent on Abbott’s conclusion the immigrants charged with homicide all entered the country due to the border being easy to cross.