The Corner

Wendy Davis to Greg Abbott: Act Like a Texan and Give the Trial Lawyers What They Want

Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has a new line of attack on her GOP opponent, state attorney general Greg Abbott: She’s running up something called the “Act Like a Texan Clock” until he explains why his office pays male assistant AGs more than it pays female assistants, and comes out in favor of equal-pay laws.

Because, as we know, nothing says acting like a Texan like arbitrarily paying people the same based on their chromosomes rather than their qualifications, and enacting new regulations to address a non-problem over which the tort lobby salivates.

Davis is terribly concerned that Abbott’s office pays female assistant attorneys general on average $6,000 less than it does men holding the same position. Given that assistant attorney general is a title given to people with a wide range of experience and responsibilities, isn’t this kind of like how . . . the Obama White House pays its male employees about $8,000 more than its female employees, on average? The Texas state attorney general’s office pays salaries based on state schedules, plus a variety of supplementary considerations, which means individuals’ salaries vary a lot – is it so hard to believe that the men on Abbott’s staff average more experience and more additional educational qualifications than women? (As, of course, seems to be the case in the White House.)

One’s left wondering why Davis trying to debate this meaningless and deceitful issue with Abbott, rather than talk about their policy differences. Didn’t she take some strong policy stand as a state senator about an important state regulatory issue?

Turns out that factoids like equal pay are what you resort to when you’re running a months-long gubernatorial campaign where the only policy you have that wins with Texas voters is promising to lavish money on schools without any word on how to pay for it. On the bright side, claiming we need even more anti-discrimination laws might be dishonest, but it’s a nice fundraising issue for Davis, whose political patron is a fantastically wealthy trial lawyer. (And Texas is a state that has a remarkably sane tort system that makes it a little harder to make Maserati money off of salary spreadsheets — for now.)

UPDATE: How silly is Wendy Davis’s point here? Silly enough that she rebutted it herself within the last couple days. The Austin American-Statesman reports that after a recent appearance touting this issue, she was asked why male staffers in her senate office and on her campaign may make more than their female counterparts, and “she said that the pay differential was based on differences in experience and ability.”

“Asked whether that might not be the same case among assistant attorneys general, Davis said, if so, it was up to the attorney general to explain and defend that circumstance,” the paper says. Why hasn’t the attorney general done that? Oh wait, he has: “Abbott’s office said the difference is explained by the amount of time that the men have been licensed as lawyers and have served at the agency.” 

Patrick BrennanPatrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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