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Davis, Abbott set to face off for Texas governor

AUSTIN, Texas--Texas Republicans picked the state's attorney general in the fight to succeed longtime Gov. Rick Perry, while a rising Democratic star coasted to her party's nomination Tuesday night during the nation's first statewide primary this year.

Attorney General Greg Abbott clinched the Republican nomination for governor and is the favorite to succeed Perry, while charismatic Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis locked up her party's selection. The results make official a showdown that is expected to be one of the most bitterly fought and closely watched races in 2014, likely to break fundraising records for a gubernatorial election in the nation's second most populous state.

Perry decided not to seek re-election following a record 14 years in office. He stumbled as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but may seek the nomination again in 2016.

Perry's decision set off a stampede of 26 Republican candidates vying for six of the top offices in Texas. Among them was George P. Bush, the 37-year-old son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who easily won the nomination for land commissioner in his political debut.

George P. Bush's mother, Columba, is from Mexico. His grandfather and uncle are former Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, who also was a Texas governor. Texas Republicans have touted George P. Bush and his political royalty surname as key to wooing Hispanic voters.

Democrats are pinning their hopes on changing demographics — particularly the rising number of Hispanics — as key to ending two decades of Republican dominance and breaking the nation's longest losing streak in races for statewide office. Democrats are looking to turn Texas into a battleground state in presidential elections, which would make it more difficult for Republicans to win the White House.

Davis catapulted to national political stardom last summer when she held the floor in the Texas state senate for nearly 13 hours to delay a vote on imposing even more severe abortion restrictions. The legislation was passed at another session by the senate and has forced some clinics providing abortion services to close. She is the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since 1994 when Democratic Gov. Ann Richards was defeated by George W. Bush.

Davis' underdog campaign has raised US$16 million so far behind a whopping 91,000 individual donors and big checks from abortion-rights group, but Abbott went into the campaign with an even larger warchest.

Abbott, who only three weeks ago unapologetically campaigned with shock rocker Ted Nugent, never mentioned Davis in becoming the Republicans' first new gubernatorial nominee other than Perry since George W. Bush in 1998.

Speaking at his victory party in San Antonio, Abbott, who has been attorney general since 2003, accused his opponents of trying to expand state government. He said, “I say no way to bigger government in the state of Texas.”

On the Republican side, it was the first primary since Ted Cruz defeated the establishment Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in the 2012 primary and won election to the U.S. Senate, yanking Republicans nationwide further right. Texas Republican candidates willingly went along and took increasingly conservative positions on such issues as abortion and immigration in this year's primary to appeal to the party's base.

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Texas state senator Wendy Davis speaks to supporters at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas on Tuesday, March 4.

(AP)

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