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Wendy Davis plays rape card on Greg Abbott

Wendy Davis plays rape card on Greg Abbott

Down in the polls, Wendy Davis reaches for the gutter with ad suggesting Greg Abbott is soft on rape.

Wendy Davis’s run for governor against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is one of the most high profile top-ticket races in the country.

The political class (if not yet voters at large) is keeping a close eye on the back-and-forth battle for control of the narrative, and the latest ad from the Wendy Davis campaign has ignited a firestorm of controversy.

The ad, titled “A Texas Story,” tells the story of a woman from Seguin, Texas who was raped in her home by a door-to-door Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. The woman’s attempt to sue Kirby for damages went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, which eventually held that the victim did have a right to sue the corporation for the actions of the salesman.

Then-Justice Greg Abbott, however, dissented. He said that the Kirby corporation had “no duty” to the victim because the salesman in question was hired by a distributor. (Two other justices agreed with him.)

The controversy surrounding this ad obviously doesn’t center on the issue of which Justices booked their 1L Torts exam; instead, it centers on the issue that has defined these campaigns from the beginning–gender. Also, emotions (because of course) and the shock of seeing a political ad about a brutal rape. (Some may say the shock of seeing a political ad that exploits rape to gain points with voters, but who’s counting?)

Wendy Davis’s bid for governor is a long shot: at last count, she was polling 12 points behind General Abbott, an extremely popular and effective Attorney General with almost three times as much cash on hand as his opponent. The Davis campaign knows they need to capitalize on shock value, but strategists on both sides of the aisle have serious doubts about whether or not this ad is sending the right message to undecided voters:

GOP strategist Ted Delisi said it may drive up Davis’ own negative ratings. When that happens, he said, undecided voters simply stop listening to any further messaging and “their ability to be persuaded is gone.”

“It’s definitely a high-risk strategy, one in which I suspect may not turn out the way she wants,” Delisi said.

Andrea Grimes, a senior political reporter at RH Reality Check, said she supported Davis and the ad’s overall message, but “it seems unnecessarily sensational and kind of disturbing in a way that makes it look like the campaign is exploiting a rape survivor to make a political point.”

The Abbott campaign offered a strong response to the ad, but failed to hit back with specific examples of how General Abbott has fought for women in Texas:

Abbott’s campaign responded that the ad is “gutter politics.”

“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,” said Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse.

She pointed out that Abbott’s position in the Kirby case would still have allowed the rape victim to sue the independent contractor who hired the rapist.

“No amount of desperate distortion attempts or token ad buys by Sen. Davis can change the facts of Greg Abbott’s record of fighting for Texans,” Chasse said.

The Davis campaign is banking on being able to play off the emotions of voters, but, as mentioned above, this ad may be striking the wrong chord with both victims and victims’ advocates. It’s harsh, and takes over half the ad to get to the tenuous connection between General Abbott and the featured rape.

When I watched the ad for the first time, I hated the rapist, and Kirby, but had almost lost interest by the time the narrator got around to telling me that General Abbott had written a dissent that had no impact on the Court’s ruling. The victim was allowed to sue Kirby, and all was right with the world, so why should I care about a dissent (if I, as a voter, even know what a dissent is or what it means?)

Instead of making an impact with undecided female voters, it’s likely that the Davis campaign has once again outsmarted itself in another transparent attempt to play on the emotions of low-information voters without taking the time to actually attack their opponent.


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Henry Hawkins | August 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

This cynical trivialization of rape to win votes will produce a backlash, not support.

Yeah, this is such a famous…er, infamous…case that I’ve never heard of it.

I expect it set a very weak precedent that has been since repudiated by another ruling from the Supremes of Texas.

I’d need to know a LOT more about the “sexual predator” involved. Was he an eighteen-year-old that had a sexual relationship with a sixteen-year-old? Or was he a peeping tom?

Let’s have the case, both the majority and dissent, illuminated.

What were the constraints on ANYBODY doing a background check on an employment applicant? I know big corporate HR departments who sweat bullets about things like that, much less a small Kirby distributor.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | August 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Rags, I think it can best be described as “desperate”. Her campaign isn’t “failing” it has failed and this add just proves that they know it.

If Wendy really wants to go there, let her do it. Because it will put the spotlight back on a 1975 case in which a certain Arkansas lawyer (and now Democrat Party presidential hopeful) got a reduced sentence for a convicted child rapists and maligning his 12 yr old rape victim.

Phillep Harding | August 10, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Wait a minute.

Wasn’t there something in the news a week or so back about companies not being allowed to ask candidates about criminal background?

I don’t think it was in Texas, though. Washington State?

    Ragspierre in reply to Phillep Harding. | August 11, 2014 at 12:54 am

    According to Holder and the DO(racial)Justice, employment background checks are RAAAAAAcist…!!!

    As I read the case, the rapist had no criminal record except for a deferred misdemeanor, although he was a decidedly sick phuc.

I remember hearing about this case, remember thinking it was good way t blame others except the rapist.
and its also why corporations are setup, imagine having to sue every employee of kirby to get $$.

The last pathetic smear attack of a losing candidate.

She’s going to lose anyway, so why the hell not, throw some slime at her opponent and MAYBE something will stick.

This sounds like the criminal case proved the salesman raped the woman and it was the subsequent civil case in which the woman went after the “deep pockets” for damages?

Exempting Kirby from responsibility while retaining the distributor and (others?) is normal procedure in a civil case, right?

Seems to this layman like it’s a very dishonest commercial, because it makes out Abbot’s position on the civil/liability portion of the case to be about the criminal case and thereby ‘soft on rape’ or anti-woman.

If that’s the case, Wendy Davis is truly despicable.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to MrE. | August 11, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Wendy Davis is a far left libtard democrat so it generally goes without saying that she is “truly despicable”

“Cynical trivialization of rape” would mean they are hinting at rape and I’m pretty sure the video goes beyond hinting. A woman was raped by a salesman who worked for Kirby, proven as clear as day in court with evidence and the whole 9 yards. The rape taking place was very evident. If it were your mother, sister, daughter, aunt, or cousin you’d go after corporate as well for putting your family members safety in jeopardy. If you wouldn’t then you’re a sorry POS for not doing all you could in their honor. Regardless of how much Abbott paints this calf golden, it will always remain a hideous monster on his already less than impressive record. I don’t know how much more evidence you’d need, I’m just baffled a SUPREME JUDGE would allow this to happen. Anyone can see how the whole case played out, Abbott was completely in the wrong and more than likely got a kick back from it as well. He has taken special interest in before. Do your research before spreading hypocrisy. I know it’s hard for Republican’s not to but something has got to change in that wreck of a party. Maybe being civilized and thinking logically might be a start? Can’t hurt…

    Ragspierre in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 10, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    “I don’t know how much more evidence you’d need…”

    Well, honey, let’s start with ANY evidence. You have your hair on fire over…what?

    As a general canon of law, an employer is not liable for the criminal conduct of its employees. Deliberate criminal conduct usually takes you out of tort law.

    And Texas Supreme Court Justices (who only consider civil law matters) are not avengers, and don’t decide matters on emotion. Which seems like all you’ve got.

    Ragspierre in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    955 SW2d 854 is the case.

    Hecht…one of our better Supremes…wrote the main dissent. Gonzales wrote the majority opinion, and to my mind it isn’t very rational, considering he also wrote the Yellow Cab opinion holding the opposite.

    So…have it, darlin’. Explain to all of us your legal reasoning, and how it proves Abbot took a “kick-back” from that octopus of corporate power, Kirby Vacuums.

    Or maybe you’d like to apologize for your hysterical name-calling?

    Estragon in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Are you an idiot?

    Kirby didn’t hire the salesman, the independent distributor did. At no point did Kirby have the right of approval for who their distributors hired or fired. That’s what “independent” means.

    Never mind the question – you’ve already answered it.

      This got me to thinkin’ … IF I were to commit a crime in someone’s home, while wearing trademarked blue-jeans and carrying a bag of apples, can the victim sue Levi’s and Washington state?

    Walker Evans in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 11, 2014 at 1:56 am

    Tex, you took a wrong turn in the library in Philadelphia. The case in question was not about deciding whether or not there was a rape; that had been settled with a guilty verdict in the criminal trial. This was about suing Kirby for what someone they didn’t hire, knew nothing about, and didn’t control committed rape. The who did hire the scumbag was the party that should be held liable, not Kirby Corp. That is normal law and that is what the case in question was about. Judge Abbot was right in this case that was NOT about a rape, but about suing someone who hired the guilty party; that was not Kirby.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 11, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Another Texan: “Cynical trivialization of rape” would mean they are hinting at rape…

    Yes, if you totally reassign meaning to my words they come out meaning something else. Strawman argument. Nice shooting.

    She isn’t ‘hinting’ at rape, she’s laying it out in bright red ten inch letters. To get votes, truth be damned.

    Ragspierre in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 11, 2014 at 9:53 am

    OK, by this time, I hope you’ve had a chance to rethink your histrionics, and come to the realization that Ms. Davis has been using you and others like you in a particularly callous and cynical way.

    I hope this experience will induce you to begin the process of looking critically at things you are told, and to apply logic and an understanding of human nature to your future assessments.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | August 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Now finish your veggies and go clean your room.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | August 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      I just want to take a moment and applaud your hopeful attitude. I find it refreshing that you still think even willfully ignorant liberal zombies can be redeemed. God Bless you my friend.

        Ragspierre in reply to Gremlin1974. | August 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

        Hey, I can readily picture her/him as a Austinite who has been corrupted by Womyn’s Studies nonsense at UT. Which may be entirely stereotypical pigeon-holing on my part. But I think it works on a utilitarian level…

        Anyhow, he/she may be young and not yet beyond redemption. I live in hope…

    Milhouse in reply to AnotherTexan. | August 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Liar. The salesman did not work for Kirby, Kirby had nothing to do with hiring him, therefore Kirby couldn’t be responsible for anything he did, even a car crash, let alone a crime.

    dang, you might want to put a bag of frozen peas on that or something. you just got your ass kicked but good. that’s definitely going to leave a mark.

Wendy Davis Voted Against Allowing Schools To Fire Felons .. She shouldn’t be pointing fingers.. Why would Wendy Davis vote repeatedly to keep felons in our public school classrooms?

Pretty cheesy ad. Ain’t getting my vote and I live in Texas.

The majority of you appear to be fools. This case was about my family. We were there and in the court room. Abbott is a tool and an idiot and my sister (on the legal team and visited that court regularly for other cases) who is the strongest right wing supporter you will find would not vote for him if you put a gun to her head. He lied in court and has a history of doing such. To honestly think that companies who hire door-to-door salesman that visit homes during the day when mostly women are present is not responsible for their employees and the safety of others is moronic.

    Ragspierre in reply to Statilius. | August 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Well, as a Texas attorney, you are full to the brim with bullshit.

    Please cite to a “lie” Justice Abbot “told in court”. Supreme Court Justices do not introduce evidence. They only rule on the record of the case that is submitted to them.

    This was a frog-fur question of law…meaning something that is very, very fine and essentially non-existent. Have you read the lower appellate court decision? This was a question of first instance, in very large measure.

    Did you read the Hecht descent? It pretty much destroys the Gonzales holding.

    While I’m very sorry for the victim here, it is apparent on the record that she and her husband were looking for a pay-day out of this. And Gonzales was simply inconsistent in his holding. (See the period?)

    Milhouse in reply to Statilius. | August 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    You’re a liar. Abbot “lied in court”?! How could he? Since when do appeals court judges say anything about the cases in front of them? They ask questions sometimes, but they don’t make statements. I don’t believe it had anything to do with your family either. Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus.

“The Abbott campaign offered a strong response to the ad, but failed to hit back with specific examples of how General Abbott has fought for women in Texas.”

Sorry, Amy, but to do so would be BUYING INTO Davis’ narrative.
Abbott is smart to simply HAMMER AWAY at Davis.