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DALLAS - Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis started broadcasting attack ads on Friday morning against her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott.

'The worst thing that the Democrat can do in this race is play it safe. They need to throw that out of the playbook,' said Harold Cook, a Democratic political strategist. 'I think this ad is a good start. She takes the fight right to Abbott, and that's what she needs to do.'

Davis' ad criticizes a decision Abbott made as a Texas Supreme Court Justice when he sided with the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner company rather than one of its salesmen accused of raping a woman in Seguin.

Davis is broadcasting her spot statewide. On the big broadcast stations in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin alone, her campaign is spending more than $545,000 to air the commercial 329 times over two weeks.

Her ad continues a theme that Davis' campaign has been trying to establish -- that Abbott sides with big business and corporate insiders over the average Texan.

But in a taping of WFAA-TV's Inside Texas Politics to air Sunday morning, Republican Consultant Matt Mackowiak calls Davis' spot despicable.

'It makes Abbott appear to be in favor of rape or something like that, which is just an outrageous thing. That's the response they're trying to get,' Mackowiak said.

Abbott's campaign said 'Texans deserve better than the gutter politics they are getting from Sen. Davis.' His staff also pointed out that as attorney general, he has put more sex offenders in prison than any of his predecessors.

He has an ad on the air, as well, but it's not negative.

Abbott's features his mother-in-law and highlights his wife's Hispanic roots. Abbott hopes to draw some of those voters from Democrats.

'He is really letting Republicans know that this is not about culture; that all cultures and all voters are welcome in the Republican Party. He wants Hispanic votes,' said Bud Kennedy, Star-Telegram columnist.

What's less certain is whether Abbott will respond to Davis' attack, or go negative at all.

A poll from Rasmussen on Friday showed Davis closing in on Abbott. He had 48 percent support combined with her 40 percent. Previous polls this spring and summer showed Davis behind Abbott by double digits.

A tighter race could create a dirtier one.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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