Abbott brings his gubernatorial kickoff tour to North Texas

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For Greg Abbott, Tuesday was about coming home.

The 55-year-old Republican attorney general — who is running to become Texas’ next governor — made campaign stops in Duncanville, where he grew up, and Wichita Falls, where he was born.

“Join me in this fight … as we fight for the future of Texas,” he told a crowd of more than 300 supporters gathered at the Ben Franklin Apothecary in Duncanville, where he once worked in high school.

Abbott has been in the limelight as the perceived front-runner for the governor’s race ever since Gov. Rick Perry announced last week that he would not seek a record fourth term in office.

Tom Pauken, who has led both the Republican Party of Texas and Texas Workforce Commission, has thrown his hat into the ring. And on the Democratic side, some suggest that state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro or his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, are potential candidates as well.

But Abbott — who received hugs, kisses and high-fives from supporters Tuesday — was the focus of the Duncanville crowd.

He vowed to supporters that he would fight for Texans as governor as he has fought for Texans as attorney general for more than a decade.

“Texans may get knocked down, but we always get back up,” he said. “We always take on the big fights.”

Case in point, he said, was the accident that landed him in a wheelchair years ago.

He told the crowd, many of whom remembered the days when he would jog around the city of Duncanville, that it was a fateful day in Houston decades ago when he was jogging and a tree fell and hit him, crashing into his back and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

He spent the next months, he said, piecing his life back together and learning to navigate life in a wheelchair.

While many politicians talk about having a spine made of steel, in his case, Abbott said, it’s true.

“I really do have a steel spine and I will use that to fight for you and every family across the great state of Texas,” he said.

After winning what is believed to be a multi-million dollar settlement against the Houston homeowner, he went on to be a successful attorney, a state district judge from Harris County and a Texas Supreme Court justice, before being elected the state’s top attorney in 2002.

Abbott touted his work in office, from fighting Second Amendment challenges to suing President Obama’s administration 27 times.

He talked about his work trying to curb human trafficking, put away child predators, collect child support, defend the “one nation under God” phrase in the pledge of allegiance and fight for “the most vulnerable — unborn children.”

“If you want to start a fight with a Texan, try to take away their freedom and we will fight back,” Abbott said. “I will never stop fighting.”

Duncanville was at the top of Abbott’s list of places to visit and the only North Texas city on this first leg of his statewide tour.

One of his former high school teachers — Jerre Simmons, an 80-year-old Duncanville woman — was among those in the crowd to hear what he had to say. Her memories of teaching Abbott English and speech in the mid 1970s are clear.

“He was wonderful,” she said. “He was always so honest and he always wanted to do the right thing.”

Gale Sliger, a 77-year-old Duncanville woman, said her sons went to high school around the same time as Abbott and she has been a long-time supporter of his.

“He’s from Duncanville,” she said with a smile. “We are proud of the job he’s doing and I think he would be a great governor. He’s smart, fair and honest.”

Pauken, however, wonders if Texans really want more of the same leadership they have had under Perry or something different.

“Will the Austin insiders, big money interests and highly paid political consultants continue to exercise a dominant role in this era of Texas politics?” Pauken has asked. “Or, will we return yet again to Reaganesque grassroots, relieving frustrated Texans from a government which is all too willing to be their master and not their servant?”

Carole Gwinn, a 67-year-old who drove in from the nearby community of Cedar Hill to see Abbott, thinks she knows the answer.

“I think he’s a perfect match for Texas,” she said. “Texas will remain solid under him.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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