Politics & Government

A $4 million Texas party

Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott will be sworn in to office Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott will be sworn in to office Tuesday, Jan. 20. AP

AUSTIN — A new chapter in Texas history begins this week.

On Tuesday, before thousands of Texans, Republican Greg Abbott will place his hand on both Sam Houston’s Bible and a family Bible and take the oath to become Texas’s 48th governor.

Abbott, 57, becomes the third Republican to hold this post in the past 20 years — and the state’s first new governor since 2000. His wife, Cecilia, will become Texas’ first Hispanic first lady since statehood.

Republican Dan Patrick, 64, will also be sworn in as the state’s 42nd lieutenant governor, the first new leader to hold this post in more than a decade.

“This is a day steeped in tradition,” said Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “It’s a ceremonial anointing of a new governor and lieutenant governor and it’s something the people of the state have come to expect.

“It’s a politically significant, as well as an almost culturally significant, event for the people of the state,” he said. “It’s a way of reinforcing the legitimacy of the governor.”

Tuesday’s daylong celebration is expected to draw as many as 30,000 Texans and comes with great fanfare and a super-sized price tag — about $4 million — to pay for festivities that include a barbecue, parade and a ball.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting time,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said. “It’s a huge change of power for us in the state, … the first time in 14 years we’ve had a lot of new faces.”

Not everyone is as excited.

“The inauguration of Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and the opening of the 84th Legislature is hard confirmation of the destructive, Washington-style political culture Rick Perry and one-party Republican control has brought to Texas,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic PAC.

Inaugural organizers aren’t saying yet which Texans and corporations have donated to help cover the cost of the once-every-four-year celebration in Texas, saying only that the amount is being raised through ticket sales and donations.

Inaugural activities

As written in the Texas Constitution, the inauguration occurs on the third Tuesday in January after a November election.

On Monday night, there will be a “Young Texans Celebration” at Austin’s Moody Theater, where Texas natives Rob Baird (who wrote and recorded Blue Eyed Angels when he was a senior at TCU) and the Josh Abbott Band (no relation to the governor-elect) are scheduled to perform at the $35-a-ticket celebration.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Abbott, a former high school track star who has been in a wheelchair since he was left partly paralyzed in a 1984 jogging accident, and Patrick will take their oaths of office and give speeches to the thousands at the south steps of the Texas Capitol. After they do, Fort Worth Diocese Bishop Michael Olson will offer up a prayer.

After the ceremony wraps up, any Texan who bought a $10 ticket will head to the west side of the Capitol for a barbecue meal by Eddie Deen’s Catering.

Then an inaugural parade — complete with around 30 floats and acts and an F-16 flyover by the Texas Air National Guard — will make its way down Congress Avenue. Two North Texas groups are expected in the parade: the Berkner High School Ramblers and from Abbott’s hometown, the Duncanville High Hats.

As the day winds down, about 10,000 revelers will head to the “Future of Texas” Ball at the Austin Convention Center. Country music stars Lady Antebellum and Pat Green of Fort Worth are scheduled to perform at the $75-a-ticket event.

“It’s a state political spectacle,” Buchanan said. “It’s the most important one we have in the state.

“This is the kind of thing that draws the thousands of people expected.”

Local guests

This will be the fourth inauguration Price has attended in Austin.

She will get to see the swearing-in, eat during the barbecue luncheon and see the parade before she has to fly out to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

She said she really wants to see the ceremonies — and be there to support the Tarrant County delegation.

“I think it’s important that Fort Worth be a presence and show that we are there to support them and help them,” Price said.

This will be the first inauguration for Haden Wendt, 17, a senior at the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences in Fort Worth.

He said he will attend the ceremony with his grandparents, since his parents have to work.

“It just seems really cool to see an inauguration, which is an historical event,” he said. “I’ll be missing school, but I will write a letter and hopefully get an excused absence.”

Wendt wasn’t old enough to vote in last year’s election. But if he had been, he said, he would have voted for Abbott.

Kent Kallmeyer of Fort Worth voted for Abbott and Patrick, and is glad he will get to go to their inauguration.

“I haven’t been to an inauguration before and I wanted to see what it was like,” said Kallmeyer, 39, who works in marketing.

Kallmeyer said this trip to Austin will let him kill two birds with one stone.

He gets to see the inauguration and he gets to track down lawmakers to explain why he is unhappy with the House’s move last week to re-elect Joe Straus as speaker.

“I would like to voice my opinion about that,” he said.

Local ties

Many North Texans are involved in putting on the inaugural festivities.

At the helm is Ardon Moore, president of Lee M. Bass Inc. in Fort Worth. He also handles many other duties, including serving as president of the Fort Worth Zoological Association.

“I am proud to serve as chairman of a committee with such a great history and tradition in Texas,” Moore said in a statement.

Alejandra De La Vega Foster, Toni Brinker Pickens, Trevor Rees-Jones and John Nau round out the executive leadership team for the inauguration.

Abbott also appointed several other local residents to serve on the committee, including Mary Louise and Bob Albritton, Ramona and Lee Bass of Fort Worth, Julia and Mojy Haddad of Arlington, Nancy Sanchez and Marcus Hiles of Fort Worth, and Alice Walton of Fort Worth.

Patrick included Sue and Al Boenker of Fort Worth and Julie and Fred McCarty of Grapevine among his appointees to the inaugural committee.

“Texas inaugurations are steeped in time-honored tradition and reflect the story of our great state,” Abbott said. “These men and women are the best possible team to honor this tradition.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

Texas Inauguration 2015 events

Monday

8-10 p.m. — The Young Texans Celebration at the Moody Theater, 310 Willie Nelson Blvd.

Tuesday

11 a.m. — On the south steps of the Texas Capitol, Greg Abbott will be sworn in as governor and Dan Patrick as lieutenant governor.

12:15 p.m. — Inauguration Barbecue on the west grounds of the Capitol, $10 per person.

2 p.m. — Inauguration Parade down Congress Avenue.

8 p.m. — The Future of Texas Ball, honoring Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick, at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

The costs of inauguration

Approximate cost of the last five Texas inaugurations:

1999 — $1.5 million

2003 — $1.5 million

2007 — $2.4 million

2011 — $2 million

2015 — $4 million

Source: Star-Telegram archives; Texas Watchdog, 2015 Texas Inauguration

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