Wheelchair Ad Sparks Controversy In Divisive Governor’s Race
Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis defended a controversial TV spot criticizing her opponent who is paraplegic, saying Monday that the advertisement was meant to highlight his alleged hypocrisy and not his disability.
“In 1984, Greg Abbott sought out and received justice following a horrible injury, rightly so,” Davis said at a news conference in her state Senate district in Fort Worth. “But then he turned around and built his career working to deny the very same justice that he received to his fellow Texans rightly seeking it for themselves.”
Davis, a Democrat trailing Republican Attorney General Abbott, made the same case in the 30-second spot released Friday to widespread criticism. The ad, which opens with a shot of a wheelchair, notes that Abbott received millions of dollars in a legal settlement after a tree fell on him while he was jogging in 1984, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
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“Since then, he’s spent his career working against other victims,” the ad states, citing three cases in which Abbott, as attorney general or a member of the state Supreme Court, opposed damages sought by individuals who suffered grievous injuries.
At her news conference, which included a pair of supporters in wheelchairs, Davis pressed her assertion that Abbott had acted hypocritically and said making that case to voters was the sole purpose of the ad.
“Greg Abbott got his justice,” she said. “Why doesn’t he believe that a rape survivor or a person with a disability or a victim paralyzed forever … should get justice too? What makes Greg Abbott think it’s okay to deny them, his fellow Texans, the justice that he rightly went to court to receive?”
Abbott and his allies have fiercely denounced the advertisement. On Monday, his campaign released a video including a number of harshly critical headlines as well as political analysts condemning the ad and calling its release a desperation move.
Davis, who vaulted to political celebrity last year on the strength of a one-woman filibuster against tough anti-abortion restrictions, trails far behind Abbott in both opinion polls and fundraising.
Strategists for Davis have suggested Abbott wishes to have it both ways in the governor’s race, alluding to his disability in his own TV ads and speeches and then condemning his opponent for broaching the subject. They said the use of a wheelchair may seem shocking to those outside the state, who have not closely followed the campaign, but comes as no revelation to Texas voters.
“The ad is aimed at voters in Texas,” Joel Benenson, a Davis strategist, told the Texas Tribune. “I’m confident that the ad is effective and working.”