Dave Montgomery Austin Bureau
FORT WORTH – State Sen. Wendy Davis plunged into her first full day on Friday as a candidate for governor on Friday, promising Fort Worth business leaders that she wants to make Texas’ robust economy “even stronger” and sidestepping her opponent’s press secretary calling her a “California-style” liberal. In a luncheon address before the 100-year-old Rotary Club of Fort Worth, Davis cited her record of fostering economic development when she was a member of the Fort Worth City Council and said that bolstering the economy and creating jobs would be a high priority if she becomes governor. “That’s going to occupy a tremendous amount of time in terms of what we talk about,” Davis said.
In a brief question-and-answer session afterward, Davis was asked for her response to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s depiction of her as a pro-Obama liberal. Davis responded that she wants to keep the campaign focused on the issues and away from name-calling. “This campaign is about the future of Texas and what the voice of Texas will look like,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things I’ll talking about regardless of what’s being said from the other side.”
Davis, considered the most competitive Democratic gubernatorial contender in years, announced her candidacy at the Haltom City coliseum where she received her high school diploma. She assailed two decades of Republican leadership and told supporters that she would work for policies that put ordinary Texans first. Abbott, the Republican front-runner to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Perry, cited what is likely to be a dominant GOP attack line by attempting to tie her with President Obama, who is unpopular in Texas. “Once again, Texas Democrats are attempting to conjure support for California-style candidates that try to sell Obama’s liberal agenda and go against what makes Texas great,” Abbott said in a statement.
About 125 Rotary members attended Friday’s event, applauding Davis with a standing ovation after she concluded her remarks. “She did a great job,” said Sid Johnston, who is past president of the service organization. The local Rotary Club is composed of more than 400 men and women business professionals and is the 11th largest rotary club in the world, Johnston said. During her speech, Davis cited her strong support of the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways, which Abbott initially tried to block in a federal-state lawsuit before withdrawing from the legal challenge just days before Davis declared her candidacy. Davis pointedly noted that American is a “Fort Worth-based” airline.
Davis also said she wants assure that Texas is free of the kind of partisan warfare that has forced a shutdown of the federal government. “There are a lot of people who are disappointed with what they see as a complete gridlock there,” she said. Davis, who was on the Fort Worth council for nine years, recalled that she helped develop public-private partnerships to develop projects in Fort Worth, including Montgomery Plaza on Seventh Street. “We have a great story to tell in Fort Worth,” she said. She also stressed education as a cornerstone of job development, recalling her role in opposing more than $5 billion in education cuts during the 2011 Legislature. The 2013 Legislature restored more than $4 billion in education funding, but more needs to be done, Davis said.