State Sen. Wendy Davis speaks at Trib Fest

Jackie Wang

Less than 24 hours after her gubernatorial debate with Attorney General Greg Abbott, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, spoke with Evan Smith, The Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday.

“I had an opportunity to show in stark contrast these two people who are asking to serve Texas as its next governor,” Davis said. “I think I was able to demonstrate that I will be a governor who will fight every single day for the people of this state.”

In the talk, held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Davis expanded on her plan to provide pre-kindergarten to all eligible children in the state.

“We are the number one state of adults without a high school diploma,” Davis said. “By 2040, 40 percent of our adults will not have a high school diploma.”

Davis estimated that her plan would cost around $700 million on a sliding scale.

“The more important question is what does it cost if we don’t invest?” Davis said. “If we don’t invest in them, it will hurt our state economy in the future. This race is about the future of Texas and if we’re going to make the investments needed to create a successful future.”

Public relations freshman Cody Church said he saw an improvement in Davis’ performance Saturday and appreciated how relaxed she sounded in contrast to Friday’s debate. He also said he liked her view on pre-kindergarten.

“I really enjoy how much she’s advocating for universal pre-k,” Church said. “It’s a great investment in kids in the future. There are so many studies that say pre-k sets kids so much farther when they enter elementary school.”

Davis also talked about the importance of higher education and getting students into college. One thing hindering students from college, she said, was the hike in in-state tuition.

“Our tuitions have doubled or more than doubled in some of our universities, and, at the same time, we’ve seen a decline in financial aid,” Davis said. “Even for the students who are receiving those grants, they aren't receiving enough to close the gap. The legislature made the decision to thin down the amount students could get. If we want to make sure we have the work force for the jobs of tomorrow, we have to invest in our kids.”

Davis said she supported giving in-state tuition to undocumented students, and would veto a bill that threatened to take away that in-state tuition.

“Students should get in-state tuition who have [been] brought here on no fault of their own,” Davis said. “We should be focusing our resources on the real problems of drug trafficking, human trafficking, and not thinking about people who are willing to work hard, willing to learn English. That was George W. Bush’s plan, and I agree with it.”

Davis also addressed the controversy of the timing of her memoir’s publication. Abbott’s campaign filed a request to the Texas Ethics Commission to come to a decision about her book tour and if it conflicted with her political campaign ethically.

“It was a very personal book, not a political book,” Davis said. “When I agreed to write it, I agreed to write a very public book. I released the book when I completed the book. I am proud to show people how I came to be how I am, and why I am fighting for the things I am fighting for.”

Davis also answered Abbott’s question from Friday’s debate about voting for Obama.

“I don’t regret it,” Davis said. “There are things our president has done I agree wholeheartedly with. There are things I disagree with too. In my area of the state, both President Obama and Greg Abbott tried to intervene and stop the merger between U.S. Airways and American Airlines. Do you understand what that would have done for the economy of the state? Neither of them showed an understanding of the economic engine that is American Airlines.”

Abbott declined to speak at this year's Tribune Festival.

“It’s disappointing because I really am an independent voter,” Church said. “I would love to see both sides. That keeps both people on their toes.”