- Jonathan Tilove American-Statesman Staff
On the 33rd anniversary of the accident that denied him the ability to walk, Gov. Greg Abbott will announce his bid for a second term Friday in San Antonio.
The kickoff comes four years to the day since Abbott launched his first campaign for governor at virtually the same spot, at the historic Sunset Station.
Abbott went on to defeat then-state Sen. Wendy Davis — a Fort Worth Democrat who early on generated a lot of excitement and impressive fundraising numbers — by 20 percentage points, dealing Democrats a dispiriting setback.
So far this year there has been no public evidence of any candidate mounting a challenge to Abbott in either the primary or general election, but, presumably, Texas Democrats will find a challenger to join U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who is seeking the Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, at the top of the ticket.
San Antonio is the hometown of Abbott’s wife, Cecilia, and the city where they got married. He makes frequent mention of the fact that his wife is the first Latina to serve as first lady of the state of Texas, and the announcement in the heavily Hispanic city is symbolic of his determination to perform well with Hispanic voters, a necessity if Texas Republicans are to extend their political hegemony in a state that is becoming more Latino by the day.
In the same spirit, Abbott will travel to McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley on Saturday to kick off what will be a statewide block walk effort by supporters.
The governor’s announcement comes days before a special session of the Legislature that begins Tuesday. The timing is no accident.
As governor, Abbott has the sole power to call a special session, set its date and agenda.
After the Legislature didn’t pass legislation required to keep several state agencies operating, Abbott turned the need for a special session to his political advantage and an effective launching pad for his drive for a second term.
Abbott set out an expansive 20-item conservative agenda. He spent the day Monday in end-to-end meetings in his Capitol office with authors of 15 pieces of legislation corresponding to items on his special session call, in the midst of which little round “20 for 20” buttons arrived, paid for by his campaign, and were affixed to the lapels of the visiting lawmakers. Abbott’s office tweeted photos of each group, one by one.
The special session gives Abbott a drum to beat, and he plans to do a blitz of radio and television interviews the first few days of next week from a new TV studio his campaign has built at its headquarters near the Capitol.
On Monday, it also will become apparent how much Abbott raised in the 12 days between the end of the veto period and June 30. He already has $34 million in his campaign account.
It was on July 14, 1984, that Abbott, 26, was struck by a falling oak tree while jogging in Houston, smashing his spine. He had been taking a break from studying for the bar exam.
His long and painful recovery has become the touchstone of Abbott’s personal and political biography, evidence of his grit and determination.
Abbott was twice elected to the state Supreme Court, and three times elected as attorney general, before winning the governorship in 2014.
His victory over Davis was the biggest for any Texas Republican for governor since 1998, when George W. Bush won re-election, defeating former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro by 37 points. Bush first won election, defeating Ann Richards by less than 8 points, in 1994. That was also the last year that a Democrat won any statewide office in Texas, the longest such statewide election drought for either party in the country.