Five things to know about Greg Abbott

Next year, Texas will elect a new governor for the first time in over a decade. It's a good bet that governor will be Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who announced his campaign on Sunday.

So, who's the man looking to fill Rick Perry's boots?


Abbott announced his campaign on Sunday. (Darren Abate/AP)

Here's five things to know about Abbott.

* He's a conservative. Abbott likes to describe his job like this: "I go into the office, I sue Barack Obama and I go home." He's sued the Obama administration over two dozen times. He was one of several state AGs who sued over Obamacare, mandated contraception coverage, Environmental Protection Agency pollution standards and the Voting Rights Act. (He's sued the EPA 17 times.) He also argued the 2005 Supreme Court case defending the state's right to display the Ten Commandments in the state capitol building.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who worked for Abbott as solicitor general, is a good friend.

* He's a huge fundraiser. Abbott has about $20 million in the bank for this race. That's all the more eye-popping when you consider that Texas state officeholders can't raise money while the legislature is in session.

* He's paraplegic. At 26, Abbott was hit by an oak tree while running and was partially paralyzed; he has been in a wheelchair ever since. Abbott announced his gubernatorial campaign on the 29th anniversary of his accident.

“Some politicians talk about having a steel spine. I actually have one," he said in his announcement speech. "I will use my steel spine to fight for Texas values every single day.” Should he win, Abbott will be the first Texas governor ever to serve in a wheelchair.

The accident became an issue in Abbott's 2002 race for attorney general, when he criticized his Democratic rival for being a personal injury lawyer. Don Riddle, the lawyer who represented Abbott in his own personal injury suit against the owner of the tree and the company that took care of it, suggested his old client was being a hypocrite. Abbott's settlement is reported to exceed $10 million.

His disability didn't stop Abbott from defending the state in a lawsuit over the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2003, arguing that part of the law was unconstitutional.*

* He's dominated the competition. Democrats like to say that Abbott has never had a competitive race. His political career dates back to 1992, when he ran for state district judge in Harris County. He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1995; he easily won another term in 1998 and then three races for attorney general.

But Pat Mizell, a friend of Abbott's tells the Houston Chronicle that he shouldn't be underestimated. "It wasn’t enough for him to win, ” he said of Abbott's first race. “It was more important for him to crush the other side.”

So while primary rival Tom Pauken is calling Abbott "the anointed one," expect a hard-fought campaign.

“He’s tough. That’s the quality I’d associate most with him. He’s got a toughness. I mean he’s nice, but he’s real, real tough,” longtime Republican lobbyist Bill Miller told the Dallas Morning News.

As attorney general Abbott has already clashed a bit with Republicans in the legislature. He urged lawmakers to adopt interim court-drawn redistricting maps as permanent, an idea many Republicans found unpalatable.

* He's not that well known. Polls consistently showed Gov. Rick Perry beating Abbott in a primary; the attorney general has some work to do when it comes to name recognition.

“Among those who have an opinion about Attorney General Abbott, the impressions are overwhelmingly favorable,” University of Texas pollster James Henson said in March. “But we also see a large bloc of potential Republican primary voters for whom the attorney general is an undefined quantity."

But that shouldn't be a huge hurdle; Cruz started out as a virtual unknown and is now Texas Republicans' top choice for president in 2016.

* This sentence originally stated that AG Abbott sued over the Americans with Disabilities Act; he was responding to a class-action lawsuit. 

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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