Politics

Exclusive: Wendy Davis Cites Brutal Rape Case In First Television Ad

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis plans to go up with her first television ad on Friday — a harsh 60-second spot slamming her Republican opponent for how he sided in a state Supreme Court case having to do with a brutal rape.

A source closely connected to media buying leaked the ad to The Daily Caller on Thursday. The ad criticizes Republican candidate Greg Abbott’s time as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Specifically, the ad brings up a 1998 case about whether a vacuum company should have to pay damages because a contractor who worked for one of its distributors raped a woman while selling vacuums door-to-door.

Here’s the text of the 60 second ad: “March 26, 1993. A pleasant spring day in Seguin, Texas. But for one woman, it quickly became a nightmare. A Kirby Vacuum salesman came to her door to offer an in-home demonstration. And while her children slept in the very next room, the salesman brutally raped the young mother.”

“The salesman was a sexual predator on probation,” the ad continues. “But the Kirby vacuum distributor had failed to perform a routine background check on him. The woman and her husband went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. Fighting for their right to sue Kirby. Six judges — Democrats and Republicans — ruled in their favor and they won. But Greg Abbott sided with the company against the victim. Saying the company had no responsibility. Thank God this time, Greg Abbott lost.”

The case was complicated: the rapist, Mickey Carter, was not an actual employee of the Kirby Company. He was an independent contractor for a distributor of the Kirby Company.

“The question presented is whether a company that markets and sells its products through independent contractor distributors and exercises control by requiring in-home demonstration and sales, owes a duty to act reasonably in the exercise of that control. We hold that the company does owe such a duty,” the majority decision read.

But in his dissent, Abbott disagreed: “Kirby retained control over where the work was to be performed, not over who was to perform that work.”

While the Supreme Court upheld the $160,000 in damages awarded to the rape victim, it concurred with a lower court’s decision not to award punitive damages, saying “there was legally insufficient evidence to support the gross negligence finding.”

Davis’ negative ad stands in contrast to a feel-good spot released by Abbott’s campaign Thursday, featuring his mother-in-law.

Liberal groups have tried using the case to hurt Abbott before. Planned Parenthood Texas Votes PAC referenced the case on a site headlined, “ABBOTT’S ANTI-WOMEN RECORD.”

“While Mr. Abbott has promoted himself as a crime-fighter, he more often ruled against the victims,” the site says.

The Real Clear Politics average of the race shows Abbott up by double-digits, 50.5 percent to Davis’ 36.8 percent.

The Daily Caller emailed the Davis’ campaign for comment on Thursday night. While the campaign did not respond to TheDC’s inquiry, a spokesman put out a press release announcing the ad about an hour later.

UPDATE: The Abbott campaign responded to the attack in an email to TheDC late Thursday: “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. Texans deserve better than the gutter politics they are getting from Sen. Davis,” spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said.

“No one has a stronger record fighting the heinous crime of sexual assault than Greg Abbott,” Chasse continued. “Not only did he create dedicated units to arrest and prosecute sex offenders and protect women and children from assault, he’s responsible for putting more offenders in jail than all of his predecessors combined. In the case referenced in Sen. Davis’ despicable ad, Greg Abbott’s decision left intact the liability against the sex offender and his employer. 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.”

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