The campaign of Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis defended a newly released ad that caused nationwide controversy on Friday, saying it portrayed an issue in the race that voters “needed to hear.”
The ad made direct mention of Republican opponent and Texas attorney general Greg Abbott’s status as a paraplegic and opened by referencing the incident that partially paralysed Abbott.
Abbott was hit by a falling oak tree in 1984 while running outside after a storm. He eventually sued the homeowner from whose property the tree fell and won a $US10 million settlement. The Davis campaign ad references three cases Abbott worked on either as a state Supreme Court justice or as attorney general that the Davis campaign said were important to highlight what it portrayed as Abbott’s hypocrisy.
“This ad focuses on one thing and one thing only: The fact that Greg Abbott sought and received justice for himself by going to court to sue a homeowner and a tree company, and then spent the rest of his career denying that same justice to other victims,” Zac Petkanas, the Davis campaign’s communications director, told Business Insider.
“This is something that Texas voters not only deserve to hear. They need to hear it.”
In the first case mentioned in the ad, Abbott’s office argued a woman with an amputated leg did not qualify as disabled because she had a prosthetic limb. In the second, Abbott ruled a door-to-door sales company was not responsible after one of their employees raped a woman and they did not sufficiently check his background — though the Texas Supreme Court ended up ruling in favour of the woman. In the third and final example, Abbott defended a hospital from lawsuits filed after a surgeon botched surgeries and paralysed patients.
The latter two examples have been portrayed in other Davis campaign ads, and a source close to the Davis campaign said it has been building to the latest ad, called “Justice,” for “the whole campaign.”
The source told Business Insider that the latest ad was “effective across the board with every demographic” when shown to a focus group ahead of its release.
The Abbott campaign, in response to the Davis campaign’s ad on Friday, called it a “historic low” and “disgusting.”
“It is challenging to find language strong enough to condemn Sen. Davis’ disgusting television ad, which represents a historic low for someone seeking to represent Texans,” Abbott communications director Amelia Chasse said in a statement. “Sen. Davis’ ad shows a disturbing lack of judgment from a desperate politician, and completely disqualifies her from seeking higher office in Texas.”
Petkanas told Business Insider that voters had exhibited an “overwhelmingly negative reaction to Greg Abbott” after seeing the ad.
Abbott has released multiple ads that have highlighted his spine injury and disability. It pointed to at least three ads released by Abbott’s campaign highlighting the candidate’s spine injury and disability.
But the Davis ad drew national condemnation from various Republicans. US Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, condemned the ad in a statement. And the New Hampshire Republican Party called on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who hosted a fundraiser in support of Davis last year, to denounce the ad.
“Wendy Davis has set a historic low by attacking Attorney General Abbott’s disability and Senator Shaheen should be ashamed of her support for her disgusting campaign. Senator Shaheen has raised money to fund this despicable ad, and she should immediately call for Wendy Davis to take it down,” party chair Jennifer Horn said.
With less than a month to go before Election Day, most polls show Abbott up double digits over Davis, who first gained fame last year during a 10-hour filibuster against a bill restricting certain abortion measures in the state.
This post has been updated at 9:15 p.m. ET.
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