PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Trailing in polls and money with three months left in the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Wendy Davis said Friday that her first television ad against Republican Greg Abbott attacks him for not siding with a rape victim while serving as a judge in the 1990s.
Davis aides said the commercial – which shows a vacuum-cleaner salesman ominously entering a home for a demonstration – has begun airing but would not disclose where. But hitting the airwaves is a key moment for a campaign that has garnered nationwide interest yet struggled to gain ground.
Abbott’s campaign called the ad “despicable” and gutter politics.
The minute-long ad revisits a lawsuit filed by a woman raped in her home by a vacuum-cleaner salesman. The Texas Supreme Court in 1998 upheld by a 6-3 vote a $160,000 award against The Kirby Co. Then-Justice Abbott cast one of the dissenting votes.
“Greg Abbott sided with a corporation over a woman who had been brutally victimized,” Davis said Friday during a visit to a Harlingen shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Kirby argued that the distributor, which hired the salesman, was negligent for failing to check the criminal records of its staff. The company said it has the duty to hire competent distributors, but distributors have the duty to hire competent salespeople.
Abbott, now Texas attorney general, wrote in the dissenting opinion that Kirby had control over where the work was done but not “who was to perform that work.”
Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse defended his record as attorney general on prosecuting sex offenders and protecting women and children from assault. She said Abbott’s opinion in the Kirby case did not dispute the liability of the salesman and his direct employer.
“This ad is a continuation of the type of rhetoric we’ve seen from a candidate who is paper-thin on substance and running a failing campaign devoid of any real vision for the future of Texas,” Chasse said.
Davis has raised at least $27 million, which is more than the total raised by the state’s last Democratic candidate for governor. But Abbott began July with a nearly three-fold advantage in available cash, which could make it difficult for Davis to keep pace on television down the stretch.