Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will join American Airlines CEO Tom Horton in a 2 p.m. press conference at DFW Airport today, raising speculation that the Republican gubernatorial candidate is preparing to reverse his controversial opposition to a merger between the Fort Worth-based airline and US Airways.
A press release from the attorney general’s office said the two officials “will discuss recent developments about American Airline’s long-term future in North Texas’” but spokesmen for Abbott and American declined to disclose further details in advance of the press conference. “Stay tuned for 2 o’clock,” said Dan Hagan, American’s managing director of state and local affairs. The development comes just two days before State Sen. Wendy Davis, a strong supporter of the merger, announces her political plans at a Thursday rally in Haltom City, where the Fort Worth Democrat is expected to declare her candidacy for governor.
Davis has signaled that the merger would be an issue in a likely race against Abbott, who has come under intense criticism in North Texas for joining the Obama Administration and the U.S. Justice Department in a suit to block the merger. Abbott’s GOP primary opponent, former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken, has also blasted the attorney general for trying to stand in the way of the merger. Davis has written President Obama urging the Justice Department to drop the suit, saying it could jeopardize thousands of jobs both nationally and in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
During an appearance on Sunday at a public policy conference hosted by the Texas Tribune, Davis said that no state in its “right mind” would turn away the effective relocation of Arizona-based US Airways to Texas through the merger. “I disagree very strongly on that,” Davis said of the suit filed by the Obama Administration and six states, including Texas. She called American Airlines “an integral part of the Texas economy” and a “very integral part of Fort Worth.’’ Abbott, in an earlier interview at the Tribune Festival on Saturday, defended his decision to participate in the lawsuit, saying that “certain components” of the merger “violate anti-trust laws” and could hurt air service to rural Texas.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, an Abbott supporter, told the Business Press earlier this week that the attorney general’s opposition to the merger is “certainly not going to help him” in Tarrant County. “I don’t understand why he chose to even be involved in that,” Geren said.
The Justice Department has asked for a delay in the trial over the merger of American Airlines and US Airways due to the government shutdown.