East Texas crowd gives Abbott a conservative checkup

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy God and guns win votes in East Texas, and Attorney General Greg Abbott talked plenty of both Tuesday.

Taking his shiny new gubernatorial campaign out for a spin past all his hometowns, Abbott almost wistfully remembered his childhood: “Longview is where I first felt the grip of a gun.”

Standing in front of the “gun room” in a feed store smelling strongly of fertilizer and soil conditioners, Abbott told about 100 voters he “defended your Second Amendment rights and firearms freedom.”

“If you want to start a fight with a Texan,” he said, pausing for effect — “just try takin’ away their freedom!”

The 20-year Republican judge and official also retold how he protected a Ten Commandments monument and “successfully defended the words ‘One Nation Under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance.”

Yes, this is what Republican primaries are about.

With the exception of 2010’s vivid three-way primary, Texas’ next governor is chosen by the 700,000 most ardent party voters.

They want to hear how much you love the Second Amendment, and how much you hate Washington and federalism, and how many times you sued President Obama.

For Abbott and his leading opponent, Port Aransas Republican Tom Pauken, this campaign is about who’s more conservative, and whether either can look even more aggressive than the new party firebrand, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

In the cheering crowd, Butch Marsalis of Deadwood wore a “Don’t Tread on Me” button from the Panola County Conservatives.

(Those would be the people who are even more conservative than the rest of Panola County.)

“I like the way Abbott gets after the federal government,” Marsalis said.

“We want Texas to stay conservative.

Of six voters I asked, three began the same way: “I was a big [Gov.] Rick Perry fan, but …. “

Kathy Mackey’s version: “But I just don’t know much about Greg Abbott. I want to make sure we have a governor with conservative principles.”

Her husband, Bill, jumped in to explain.

“Somebody to defend our Second Amendment rights and be tough on immigration,” he said. “Close the borders!”

Dale Perkins of Longview-based Perkins Partnership Ministries, a retired Southern Baptist music minister and leader of the singing group Classic Praise East Texas, said he wants “more morals in school” and “can’t believe our kids can get free birth control.”

Perkins called Abbott a “solid faith conservative” but added that he was worried about Abbott losing votes over religion. As far as I can tell, either Abbott or Pauken would be a trailblazer as the state’s first Catholic governor since the Texas Revolution.

Grinning, Perkins said one of Abbott’s campaign managers jokingly reassured him: “He said, ‘Aw, I’d much rather be with a strong Catholic than a Baptist. They’ll cut and run on you.’”

Sixteen more months.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy Get alerts at RebelMouse.com/budkennedy

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