WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The top two Texans vying to become governor addressed the state’s largest law enforcement union Friday — but not at the same time.
The appearances marked the first time both Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott were at the same event since formally kicking off their gubernatorial campaigns, according to Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch.
But their paths never actually crossed.
Davis accepted an award as the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas’ Legislative Crime Fighter of the Year before lunch at the group’s annual convention.
Abbott, meanwhile, gave a keynote address in the late afternoon. The highlight of his speech was when the group presented him a special Texas-edition Browning 410 shotgun.
Known nationally for leading a 12-plus hour filibuster that temporarily blocked strict new limits on abortion from passing the state Legislature, Davis was honored for her work helping to eliminate backlogs of untested rape kits.
In a brief speech, she stressed her work passing legislation that helped clear the backlog and also supporting measures that increased penalties for hit-and-run drivers and drunk drivers whose blood alcohol levels test more than double the legal-limit. She didn’t mention Abbott.
“Politicians in Austin are not the ones who built this state into the great state it is. Instead it was everyday, hardworking Texans like you,” Davis said. “We simply ask that your political leaders recognize your hard work, respect your work and of course do our job, take care of you if you’re injured in the line of serving us.”
She said she had worked in a bipartisan manner to “cut through government red tape” and ensure police officers wounded while on duty get access to benefits more quickly.
“All of the potential, all of the things that we can achieve together will not happen without the right leadership in Austin,” she said. “I’m very proud of my record on law enforcement because if I can help you do your job, Texans get to do theirs safe and free from fear.”
Davis is the only Democratic candidate running in next year’s race to replace Gov. Rick Perry when he retires in 2015. Abbott faces two long-shot challengers for the Republican nomination.
Abbott has been attorney general since December 2002 and, like Davis, has a strong record on law enforcement issues. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas has 18,500 members across the state and provides legal, lobbying and collective bargaining services to members.
Its convention gave Abbott a standing ovation. The group meant for him to keep the shotgun, but Abbott could not accept because it was too valuable to take as a gift under Texas ethics rules. Instead, it will be raffled off, with the proceeds going to a police officers’ memorial fund.
“I can’t tell you how honored I am to have someone even suggest that they would offer me a gun like this,” said Abbott, who slung the shotgun over his shoulder and posed for dozens of pictures with audience members when his speech was over.
He added that he and his grown daughter Audrey were such avid hunters that she’s “maybe a better shot than some of the people in this room.” That drew scattered, skeptical chuckles.
Abbott also promised to put “more boots on the ground” in terms of police officers and to better use technology to improve communication between law enforcement agencies battling international drug gangs. He said smugglers are teaming up with local gangs and “increasingly invading the streets of our great state.”