Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the tea-party star who's the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor has toned down his fiery rhetoric on immigration.
Abbott and lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick appeared in Lubbock ahead of next week's election to encourage Republicans to vote. It was the first time since the March primary that Abbott and Patrick have campaigned together.
Patrick, a state senator and talk radio host from Houston, is known for bombastic rhetoric about ending the "invasion" of people entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico. But Abbott said that despite Patrick's past comments, he would be more inclusive than divisive.
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Abbott, whose wife is Hispanic and who has worked to gain the Hispanic vote, says he's seen a shift from Patrick.
"I have seen him tone down rhetoric like that, and I think that he has and will continue to tone down rhetoric like that and cast a vision that is inclusive of everyone in this state," Abbott, the state's attorney general, said after he and Patrick spoke to a room of about 200 people.
Patrick declined to speak to the media following his comments to the crowd. "I do not" have time, he said, walking away with his back turned after several attempts to get his attention. "I have some calls to make."
Abbott, in response to a question about whether Patrick is too far right from him, said he believes the senator will be a tenacious lieutenant governor.
"I run on my own platforms and my own positions," Abbott said. "But I think Dan Patrick is going to be a staunch leader in helping secure the border. He cares deeply about improving education and we will work on those issues together."
Patrick told the crowd Republicans need to do more than just win every election for statewide offices.
"We want to crush the Democrats," he said. "I believe in my heart that we are America's last hope, Texas."
Abbott told the crowd that electing his Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, would be tantamount to bringing President Barack Obama's policies to Texas.
"I will not let the next four years in Texas look like the last six years under Barack Obama because we will win this election," he said.
Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said Abbott's record on education alone is enough reason to vote for Davis. He noted that Abbott's office is defending the state in a lawsuit brought by more than two-thirds of its school districts last year as a result of education budget cuts in 2011.
"He cannot hide the fact that he has spent the last year of this campaign being called out for his terrible record on education, spending the last three years in court fighting to protect $5.4 billion in cuts to public education that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and closed public schools," he said.
The gathering is one of about 25 Abbott's campaign has organized during the early voting period. Abbott and Patrick were scheduled to be in Amarillo Tuesday afternoon.