DENTON, Texas (AP) — Republican Greg Abbott welcomed salty-tongued rocker Ted Nugent to his campaign for Texas governor on Tuesday but claimed ignorance about inflammatory remarks his polarizing surrogate has made on immigration and women.
Nugent has suggested that immigrants who are not in the country legally should be treated like "indentured servants" until they earn citizenship. He has referred to feminists as "fat pigs" and used lewd language about women in song lyrics and interviews.
The Texas attorney general celebrated Nugent's avid defense of gun rights — Nugent is a board member of the National Rifle Association — during their first campaign rally together at a packed North Texas restaurant. But speaking alone to reporters afterward, Abbott said he couldn't respond to some of Nugent's more famously divisive remarks on others issues.
"I can't comment on them, because I don't know what he said," Abbott said.
When asked about checking the background of those joining him on the trail, Abbott said: "I can't read everything."
Nugent didn't launch any new controversies while firing up about 150 fans and Abbott supporters, who later swarmed Nugent outside for photos and autographs — including one request to sign a gun. But Nugent poked fun at his own reputation to stir the pot.
"We don't have to question Greg Abbott's courage, because he invited me today," Nugent said.
Democratic opponent Wendy Davis called Abbott's appearance with Nugent "repulsive" after casting her ballot on the first day of early voting Tuesday in nearby Fort Worth.
"Greg Abbott's embrace of Ted Nugent and his ideals is an insult to every woman in Texas," Davis said.
Rising to rock stardom in the 1970s behind hits such as "Cat Scratch Fever," Nugent has become just as famous in politics as a popular firebrand among conservatives. He performed at Gov. Rick Perry's inauguration in 2007 and last year attended the State of the Union address as a guest of Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman.
But for Abbott, a female opponent in Davis and the rising importance of the Hispanic vote has put his alignment with Nugent under heavier fire from Democrats and left-leaning groups. Abbott said Nugent worries Davis because it amplifies a contrast between the candidates on gun rights, an issue Davis isn't surrendering after coming out in favor of an "open carry" law — a stance that surprised even her own party.
Davis later said cities should get a say on the matter, and after voting Tuesday she told reporters that "a very important part of this balance is making sure we respect the Second Amendment in Texas as we do, but that we also respect private property rights."
Abbott accused Davis of flip-flopping and bristled at her calling so much attention to Nugent joining him.
"If there is this effect by relationship they want to trump up, then that's a game that will be to the detriment of the Davis campaign because of their ties to Barack Obama," Abbott said.
Abbott's speech at El Guapo's Mexican restaurant was interrupted when a sound speaker in the room began blaring salsa music. Abbott joked that it wasn't what he wasn't expecting to hear from Nugent — then seized on the mistake to remind the crowd that his wife, Cecilia, would be Texas' first Latina first lady if elected.
"It is a replication of the multiculturalism that I am reaching out to, because this is the music that is part of my wife and her family," Abbott said.
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