Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Monday defended her campaign television ad that highlights opponent Greg Abbott's use of a wheelchair, denying that it exploits his disability while attacking his record.
"This ad is about one thing and one thing only: It is about Greg Abbott's hypocrisy," Davis said at a news conference in Fort Worth.
Davis's campaign released the ad Friday to harsh criticism from Abbott and conservatives. At her news conference, Davis was defended and flanked by disability rights advocates, including two who use wheelchairs.
The ad ran over the weekend in Texas' major metropolitan areas. The Davis campaign said Monday the ad is still running but has declined to say for how long or how much it cost. Early voting starts Oct. 20 for the Nov. 4 general election.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch called the ad "desperate and despicable."
The 30-second ad begins with a shot of an empty wheelchair. It criticizes the state attorney general for receiving millions from a 1984 lawsuit after a falling tree crushed his spine, then working to limit the legal rights of other victims.
The Davis ad notes that in one case, Abbott argued that an amputee suing for employment discrimination was not disabled because she had a prosthetic limb. It also cites two other cases that have already been the subject of previous Davis campaign spots.
"He deserved justice for the terrible tragedy he endured," Davis said. "But then he turned around and built his career working to deny the very same justice he received to his fellow Texans rightly seeking it for themselves."
Republican Abbott has held statewide office since 1995, first as a Texas Supreme Court Justice before he was elected attorney general in 2002. But Davis's add is the first by an Abbott opponent to make an overt issue of his wheelchair.
Abbott openly discusses his disability in his speeches and campaign ads. Abbott's recent TV ads include one of him talking about his recovery from the injury, and another in which he jokes about how a "guy in a wheelchair" can move faster than cars stuck in bad Texas traffic.