Greg Abbott Kicks Off Campaign with a Feel-Good Family Affair

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Greg Abbott greets his family onstage Sunday
Patrick Michels
Attorney General Greg Abbott is greeted onstage by his wife Cecilia and his daughter Audrey after he announces he's running for governor Sunday in San Antonio.

By the time Greg Abbott came onto the stage in San Antonio Sunday afternoon, his most enthusiastic supporters in the front rows had been waiting in the sun for nearly three hours.

“I know it’s hot,” he told them, “but not nearly as hot as this campaign’s about to get.” The crowd of a few hundred went wild.

Filling a plaza in La Villita Arts Village a few blocks from downtown, they had their Greg Abbott paper fans to keep them cool—tea-party yellow with the slogan “Fast Cars, Firearms & Freedom-It’s a Texas Thing”—and all the “Abbott for Governor” campaign stickers they could ever want.

“Been waiting on this a while?” I asked an enthusiastic red-coated woman in the front row.

“Twenty years,” she answered right away—she knew Abbott back when he was a state district judge in Harris County.

Attorney General Greg Abbott
Patrick Michels
Attorney General Greg Abbott soaks up the applause after announcing he’s running for governor.

Most of the state is probably more familiar with him simply as a gleeful foil to the Obama administration, so Abbott spent most of his first official campaign appearance—on a multi-city tour that continues today in Houston—on a more personal than political note. He asked the people of Texas to elect him governor, but he sounded like he hoped to be their new best friend.

His 16-year-old daughter Audrey introduced him onstage. He told the crowd about his proposal to his wife Cecilia, and waxed poetic about the marriage he described as the combination of two different houses—one Anglo, one part-Irish and Hispanic—built on the same principles. “Dos casas pero una fundación,” he said. “The story of my family is as old as the story of Texas itself, the uniting of cultures to form one unique people.” He told of a childhood split among Texas cities and full of properly Texan youthful endeavors like Little League, Boy Scouts and guns.

By the time he got to the story of the falling oak tree that left him paralyzed—”on a steamy summer day almost identical to this,” 29 years, to the day, before his campaign launch—the crowd had already heard it twice, once from Abbott himself in a campaign ad played on a giant video board.

“Texans may get knocked down, but we always get back up,” he said, repeating a slogan he has used before to universalize his story of overcoming adversity. The crowd ate it up, along with another line building his image as a political fighter and showing that he’ll joke about his disability: “Too often, you hear politicians get up and talk about having a spine of steel,” he said. “I actually have one, and I will use my steel spine to fight for you and Texas families every single day.”

Cheering Abbott supporters
Patrick Michels
Abbott supporters cheer on the attorney general as he begins his campaign for governor.

Abbott didn’t offer much more substance than that as to what his Texas would look like. He correctly surmised that “water supplies are too low,” many roads need fixing and “our schools can do better.” Of course, he’d already noted that the sun is hot.

He suggested his time as governor would generally be spent like his time as attorney general, screwing with the federal government and talking about guns—and that’s all this crowd needed to hear. Each mention of suing the Obama administration got a cheer almost as loud as the time someone mentioned Ted Cruz.

He closed by proclaiming his devotion to “the ideals and values of the greatest people to inhabit this earth, the people of Texas.” As the crowd cheered, before his friends and family joined him onstage, he finished revving up the crowd with a perfect couple of words for the occasion: “Texas! Texas!”

Abbott fans wave hand-made signs of almost uniform quality and style.
Patrick Michels
Abbott fans wave hand-made signs of almost uniform quality and style.

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a competitive eating enthusiast.

  • NWB

    As a plumber friend once noted, cream rises and s#@$ floats. You can decide for yourself how this man rose to the top.

    • SoberMoney

      Let’s be honest. This man is on a roll.

  • SoberMoney

    Just what Texas needs, another self-serving phony conservative corporate welfare whore who panders to his ignorant Republican base but is only serving his financial masters.

    His election motto should be: “Rollin’ in the dough on behalf of my elite owners.”

  • SocraticGadfly

    Doorknob, what puffery. Now, can Pauken make traction with this, at least with tea partiers? He’s really not the “attack dog” type. Maybe Dan Patrick will switch from Lite Guv to Guv.

  • A. Zigon

    He’s the worst of Bush and Perry combined. That sounds like a real lofty goal he has ” to Keep messing with the Federal Government” Just like Perry who bad mouths Washington every chance he gets but drools at the thought of going there to steal his share. And who professes to not need anything Washington has but begs them to fix West for him so he doesn’t have to spend his slush fund.

  • unclejeems

    ” . . . the ideals and values of the greatest [white, ignorant, Republican] people to inhabit this earth.” Fixed.

    That s**t-weasels like this are even considered for high office is a vivid demonstration of how far Texas has fallen since the age of Reagan. This guy makes John Tower and John Connally look like paragons of moderation. Where’s Dolph Briscoe when you need him?

  • PouponMarks

    Looking at his and his wife’s resumes, his principled stand against command central control of the unconstitutional kind, the pushback against an African Communist who pretends to be American President, I would say that Greg Abbott embodies and reflects Tea Party values and Conservative Constitutionalism.

    The comments below hardly rate above a slur and simper, in my opinion.

    • SoberMoney

      Yes, and it’s obvious PouponMarks thinks just like he looks in his picture.

      “….the pushback against an African Communist who pretends to be American President.”

      PouponMarks is also color-blind. George W. Bush is not African!

      And “Tea Party values?” Do you mean racist, ignorant, and hypocritical?

  • unclejeems

    Well, his wife and his daughter look like lovely people. And Willie Nelson is from Abbott, Texas. So maybe he’s OK . . . Nah.

  • SoberMoney

    Hey, where are all the people of color in the pictures above?

    • PouponMarks

      I can see you are Colored blind. Wake up. Wise up. Take a laxative.

      • SoberMoney

        Yes, all white people gatherings are very boring, which I understand why Texas Republicans like such “rallies.”