Abbott highlights his fights against Obamacare and gun control but avoids immigration.
(See announcement video below)
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
SAN ANTONIO (CFP) — Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has officially entered the race to be the next governor of Texas, launching his 2014 campaign by highlighting his fights against what he sees as infringements on constitutional freedoms and the overweening hand of the federal government.
“I didn’t invent the phrase ‘Don’t Mess with Texas,” but I have applied it more than anyone else,” says Abbott, who has sued the federal government 27 times during his three terms as state attorney general. “When it comes to our freedom and our future, I will never, never stop fighting. That why I’m asking you, the people of Texas, to elect me governor.”
Abbott, 55, made his announcement July 14 before a crowd of supporters in San Antonio, 29 years to the day since a freak accident left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
“On a steamy summer day like this, I went out for a jog. While I was jogging, a huge oak tree suddenly crashed down on me,” says Abbott. “Doctors inserted two steel rods up and down my vertebrae … Some politicians talk about having a spine of steel. I actually have one.”
Abbott’s speech touched on familiar conservative themes, such as his legal battles against Obamacare and gun control and his successful defense of a Ten Commandments display at the State Capitol in Austin.
However, in his kickoff speech, Abbott, whose wife is Hispanic, didn’t mention an issue near and dear to the nativist wing of his party – immigration. Noting the blending of Latino and white cultures in the Lone Star State, he said, “Dos casas, pero una fundacion. (“Two houses, but one foundation.)
Abbott’s campaign Web site also steers clear of the issue, although it does note his work to combat human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexican border.
Republicans in Texas — where Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the population — have steered clear of the more strident anti-immigration sentiment seen in GOP circles in other states.
Current Gov. Rick Perry was assailed as too soft on the immigration issue during his 2012 presidential run, although he has since come out against a compromise immigration bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate. Former President George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor in Austin, supports the Senate bill.
Abbott is considered the prohibitive front-runner in the governor’s race, having raised Texas-sized campaign stash of more than $22 million. Perry’s decision not to seek a fourth full term as the state’s chief executive cleared away the largest obstacle in Abbott’s path.
Tom Pauken, a former state GOP chairman and state workforce commissioner from Port Aransas, is opposing Abbott. Debra Medina, a Ron Paul acolyte from Wharton who ran a spirited primary campaign against Perry in 2010, had also considered the race but is now running for state comptroller.
Pauken has characterized the race against Abbott as a “battle for the soul of the Republican party,” pitting big-money interests and Austin insiders against what he called the “Reaganesque grassroots.” He has challenged Abbott to a series of Lincoln/Douglas-style debates across the state.
On the Democratic side, State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who became the heroine of the abortion movement by successfully filibustering an anti-abortion bill in June 2013, is running. However, both San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Houston Mayor Bill White, who lost to Perry in 2010, decided not to run.
A Democrat has not won the Texas governorship since Ann Richards did it in 1990. She lost to Bush four years later, which marked the beginning of a GOP tidal wave in state politics.
All nine executive officials elected statewide in Texas are Republicans, as are all nine elected members of the state Supreme Court.