WILL WEISSERT,Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will make a “major announcement” Sunday in San Antonio, fueling widespread speculation he’s ready to formally kick off a campaign for governor.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said Thursday that the announcement was coming but refused to divulge exactly what Abbott’s plans were. Still, it’s no secret Abbott is looking to take up the conservative mantle Gov. Rick Perry will leave behind by not seeking fourth full term in office.
In a subsequent media release, Texans for Greg Abbott said word “regarding his political future” will come at 1 p.m. on Plaza Juarez in downtown San Antonio, near the famous Riverwalk.
Perry has been governor longer than anyone in Texas history but announced Monday that he was not running again — clearing the way for Abbott to cruise to the Republican nomination in primaries now set for March. Word of his announcement ends a political holding pattern Texas had fallen into as it reacted to news that Perry was bowing out and braced for news Abbott was formally preparing to run.
Abbott had a formidable $18 million in his war chest as of January, and his campaign announced Wednesday that he’d raised an additional $4.7 million-plus during the last two weeks of June.
Abbott has been attorney general since December 2002 and is popular with mainstream Republicans but also fiscal and social conservatives and tea party grassroots activists.
Championing a populist campaign style, Abbott loves to brag about suing the federal government on Texas’ behalf 27 times under President Barack Obama. He’s claimed the state has suffered federal overreach on environmental regulations, the White House’s signature health care reform law, and on the U.S. Justice Department’s attempts to block as discriminatory to minorities voting district maps approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
Abbott even gleefully describes his job as attorney general thusly: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.”
Despite his fundraising advantage, the 55-year-old Abbott remains far from a household name among Texas voters. He was 26 and out for a jog when an oak tree fell on him, crushing his legs and forcing him to use a wheelchair ever since.
Abbott eventually sued the owner of the tree and a tree trimming company that had worked in the area. Since then, though, he’s become a champion of efforts to restrict civil litigation in Texas and has delighted tea party activists by ferociously championing gun rights and opposing abortion.
The only other announced gubernatorial candidate is former state Republican Party chairman Tom Pauken, who considered a longshot. Still, Pauken complained this week that Abbott “seems to be the anointed one for the governor’s chair.”
“It’s sort of like divine right,” said Pauken, noting that many major Abbott donors are large law firms that will want favors from the governor’s mansion. “You pick whose going to be the next governor, you move people up the ladder.”
No Democratic has yet emerged as gubernatorial hopeful, though some party operatives have urged state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth — who became famous nationally for her 12-plus hour filibuster to stall sweeping new limits on abortion from passing the Legislature last month — to run.
Any opposition party candidate will have an uphill climb, though, because a Democrat hasn’t won any statewide office in Texas since 1994.
Perry’s bowing out means at least six out of Texas’ nine elected executive offices will change hands. Voters will replace the governor, attorney general, comptroller and commissioners for land, agriculture and railroads. They’ll also get a chance to choose another lieutenant governor, with three top Republicans running to replace David Dewhurst — even though he plans to seek re-election.