|48th Governor of Texas|
|Assumed office |
January 20, 2015
|Preceded by||Rick Perry|
|Chair of the Republican Governors Association|
November 21, 2019 – December 9, 2020
|Preceded by||Pete Ricketts|
|Succeeded by||Doug Ducey|
|50th Attorney General of Texas|
December 2, 2002 – January 5, 2015
|Preceded by||John Cornyn|
|Succeeded by||Ken Paxton|
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas|
January 2, 1996 – June 6, 2001
|Preceded by||Jack Hightower|
|Succeeded by||Xavier Rodriguez|
Gregory Wayne Abbott
November 13, 1957
Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.
|Education||University of Texas at Austin (BBA)|
Vanderbilt University (JD)
Gregory Wayne Abbott (born November 13, 1957) is an American politician and attorney serving since 2015 as the 48th governor of Texas. A member of the Republican Party, he served as Attorney General of Texas from 2002 to 2015 and as a member of the Texas Supreme Court from 1996 to 2001. Abbott was elected governor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.
Abbott was the third Republican to serve as Attorney General of Texas since Reconstruction. He was initially elected to that office with 57 percent of the vote in 2002, re-elected with 60 percent in 2006, and 64 percent in 2010. Before assuming the office of attorney general, Abbott was a justice of the Texas Supreme Court, a position to which he was initially appointed in 1995 by then-governor George W. Bush. Abbott won a full term in 1998 with 60 percent of the vote. As Attorney General, he successfully advocated for the Texas State Capitol to display the Ten Commandments in the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case Van Orden v. Perry, and unsuccessfully defended the state's ban on same-sex marriage. He was involved in numerous lawsuits against the Barack Obama administration, seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act and the administration's environmental regulations.
In July 2013, Abbott declared his candidacy in the 2014 Texas gubernatorial election. He won the Republican primary and subsequently won the general election by 19 points. He is the first governor of Texas and third governor of a U.S. state to use a wheelchair. As Governor, Abbott supported the Donald Trump administration, and has promoted a conservative agenda, including measures against abortion such as the Texas Heartbeat Act, promoted more lenient gun laws and restrictions, opposed illegal immigration, opposed decreasing law enforcement funding, and promoted election integrity reform that his critics denounce as voter suppression. In response to the power crisis following a February 2021 winter storm, Abbott called for reforms to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and required power plant weatherization. Abbott's approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic has been controversial, he has taken a minimalist, hands-off approach to COVID-19 public health precautions, emphasizing personal responsibility over government mandates.
Early life, education and early law career
Gregory Wayne Abbott was born on November 13, 1957, in Wichita Falls, Texas, of English descent. His mother, Doris Lechristia Jacks Abbott, was a stay at home wife and his father, Calvin Rodger Abbott, was a stockbroker and insurance agent. When he was six years old, they moved to Longview; the family lived in the East Texas city for six years. At the beginning of junior high school, Abbott's family moved to Duncanville. In his sophomore year in high school, his father died of a heart attack; his mother went to work in a real estate office. He graduated from Duncanville High School. He was on the track team in high school, was in the National Honor Society, and was voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
In 1981, Abbott earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and the Young Republicans Club. He met his wife, Cecilia Phelan, while attending UT Austin. In 1984, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee.
On July 14, 1984, at age 26, Abbott was paralyzed below the waist when an oak tree fell on him while he was jogging following a storm. He had two steel rods implanted in his spine, underwent extensive rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston and has used a wheelchair ever since. He sued the homeowner and a tree service company, resulting in an insurance settlement that provides him with lump sum payments every three years until 2022 along with monthly payments for life; both are adjusted "to keep up with the rising cost of living". As of August 2013, the monthly payment amount was US$14,000. Abbott said he had relied on the money to help him pay for nearly three decades of medical expenses and other costs.
Abbott's judicial career began in Houston, where he served as a state trial judge in the 129th District Court for three years. Then-Governor George W. Bush appointed Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court; he was then twice elected to the state's highest civil court — in 1996 (two-year term) and in 1998 (six-year term). In 1996, Abbott had no Democratic opponent but was challenged by Libertarian John B. Hawley of Dallas. Abbott defeated Hawley by a margin of 84 percent to 16 percent. In 1998, Abbott defeated Democrat David Van Os by 60 percent to 40 percent.
In 2001, after resigning from the Supreme Court, Abbott went back to private practice and worked for Bracewell & Giuliani LLC. He was also an adjunct professor at University of Texas School of Law.
Attorney General of Texas
Abbott resigned from the Texas Supreme Court in 2001 to seek the position of Lieutenant Governor of Texas. His campaign for Lieutenant Governor had been running for several months when the previous attorney general, John Cornyn, vacated the post to run for the U.S. Senate. He then switched his campaign to the open attorney general's position in 2002. Abbott defeated the Democratic nominee, former Austin mayor and former state senator Kirk Watson, 57 percent to 41 percent. Abbott was sworn in on December 2, 2002, following fellow Republican Cornyn's election to the Senate.
Abbott expanded the attorney general's office's law enforcement division from about 30 people to more than 100. He also created a new division called the Fugitive Unit to track down convicted sex offenders in violation of their paroles or probations.
In a 2013 speech to fellow Republicans, when asked what his job entails, Abbott said: "I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." Abbott filed 31 lawsuits against the Obama administration, including suits against the Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including challenges to the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"); and the U.S. Department of Education, among many others. According to The Wall Street Journal, from Abbott's tenure as Attorney General through his first term as Governor, Texas sued the Obama administration at least 44 times, more than any other state over the same period; court challenges included carbon-emission standards, health-care reform, transgender rights, and others. The Dallas Morning News compared Abbott to Scott Pruitt, noting that both Attorneys General had repeatedly sued the federal government over its environmental regulations. The Houston Chronicle noted that Abbott "led the charge against Obama-era climate regulations."
Abbott has said that the state must not release Tier II Chemical Inventory Reports for security reasons, but that Texans "can ask every facility whether they have chemicals or not." Koch Industries has denied that their contributions to Abbott's campaign had anything to do with his ruling against releasing the safety information.
In March 2014, Abbott filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano in three federal lawsuits against the hospital, brought by patients who alleged that the hospital allowed Christopher Duntsch to perform neurosurgery despite knowing that he was a dangerous physician. Abbott cited the Texas Legislature's cap on malpractice cases, along with the statute's removal of the term "gross negligence" from the definition of legal malice, as reasons for defending Baylor.
As Texas AG in the late 2000s, Abbott established a unit in the AG's office to pursue voter-fraud prosecutions, using a $1.4 million federal grant; the unit prosecuted a few dozen cases, resulting "in small fines and little or no jail time." The office found no large-scale fraud that could change the outcome of any election.
Lawsuit against Sony BMG
In late 2005, Abbott sued Sony BMG. Texas was the first state in the nation to bring legal action against Sony BMG for illegal spyware. The suit is also the first filed under the state's spyware law of 2005. It alleges the company surreptitiously installed the spyware on millions of compact music discs (CDs) that consumers inserted into their computers when they played the CDs, which can compromise the systems. On December 21, 2005, Abbott added new allegations to his lawsuit against Sony-BMG. Abbott says the MediaMax copy protection technology violates the state's spyware and deceptive trade practices laws. He says Sony-BMG offered consumers a licensing agreement when they bought CDs and played them on their computers. In the lawsuit, brought under the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005 and other laws, Abbott alleged that even if consumers reject that agreement, spyware is secretly installed on their computers, posing security risks for music buyers and deceiving Texas purchasers. Sony settled the Texas lawsuit, as well as a similar lawsuit brought by the California Attorney General, for $1.5 million.
Separation of church and state
In March 2005, Abbott delivered oral argument before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Texas, defending a Ten Commandments monument on grounds of the Texas State Capitol. Thousands of similar monuments were donated to cities and towns across the nation by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who were inspired by the Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments (1956) in following years. In his deposition, Abbott said that "The Ten Commandments are a historically recognized system of law." The Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the Texas display did not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and was constitutional. After Abbott's oral arguments in Van Orden v. Perry, Justice John Paul Stevens commented upon Abbott's performance while in a wheelchair, "I want to thank you [...] for demonstrating that it's not necessary to stand at the lectern in order to do a fine job."
As Texas AG, Abbott staunchly opposed gun control legislation. In 2013, Abbott criticized legislation enacted by New York State that strengthened the state's gun laws by expanding an assault weapons ban and creating a high-capacity magazine ban; Abbott also said he would sue if Congress enacted a new gun-control bill. After the law was passed, Abbott's political campaign placed Internet ads to users with Albany and Manhattan ZIP codes suggesting that New York gun owners should move to Texas. The one ad read "Is Gov. Cuomo looking to take your guns?" and the other ad read, "Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owners looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity." The ads linked to a letter on Facebook in which Abbott stated such a move would enable citizens "to keep more of what you earn and use some of that extra money to buy more ammo."
In February 2014, Abbott argued against a lawsuit brought by the National Rifle Association to allow more people access to concealed carry of firearms, as Abbott felt this would disrupt public safety.
Abbott backed legislation in Texas that limits "punitive damages stemming from noneconomic losses" and "noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases", at $750,000 and $250,000, respectively. While the settlement in Abbott's own paralysis case was a "nonmedical liability lawsuit", which remains uncapped, Abbott has faced criticism from generally Democrats who oppose the Republican-backed lawsuit curbs, for "tilt[ing] the judicial scales toward civil defendants."
Support for ban on sex toys
As Attorney General, Abbott unsuccessfully defended Texas's ban on sex toys. He said Texas had a legitimate interest in "discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex and the pursuit of sexual gratification unrelated to procreation."
Opposition to same-sex marriage
As Attorney General, Abbott defended the state's ban on same-sex marriage from a constitutional challenge. In 2014, he argued in court that Texas should be allowed to prohibit same-sex marriage because LGBT individuals purportedly cannot procreate. He said that as "same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does." He also argued that gay individuals still have the freedom to marry, saying they are "as free to marry an opposite sex spouse as anyone else". He suggested that same-sex marriage was a slippery slope where "any conduct that has been traditionally prohibited can become a constitutional right simply by redefining it at a higher level of abstraction."
In the November 7, 2006, general election, Abbott was challenged by civil rights attorney David Van Os, who had been his Democratic opponent in the 1998 election for state Supreme Court. He won re-election to a second term by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent.
Abbott ran for a third term in 2010. He defeated the Democratic attorney Barbara Ann Radnofsky of Houston by a margin of 64 percent to 34 percent. He was the longest-serving Texas attorney general in Texas history.
In July 2013, the Houston Chronicle alleged improper ties and oversight between many of Abbott's largest donors and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, of which he was a director.
Governor of Texas
In July 2013, shortly after Governor Rick Perry announced that he would not seek a fourth full term, Abbott announced his intention to run for Governor of Texas in the 2014 Texas gubernatorial election. In the first six months of 2011, he raised more money for his campaign than any other Texas politician, reaching $1.6 million. The next highest fundraiser among state officeholders was Texas comptroller Susan Combs with $611,700.
Abbott promised to "tie outcomes to funding" for pre-K programs if elected governor, but he said he would not require government standardized testing for 4-year-olds, as Davis has accused him of advancing. When defending his education plan, Abbott cited Charles Murray: "Family background has the most decisive effect on student achievement, contributing to a large performance gap between children from economically disadvantaged families and those from middle class homes." A spokesman for Abbott's campaign pointed out that the biggest difference in spending was that Davis had proposed universal pre-K education while Abbott wanted to limit state funding to programs that meet certain standards. Davis's plan could reach $750 million in costs and Abbott has said that her plan was a "budget buster" whereas Abbott's education plan would cost no more than $118 million. Overall, Abbott said the reforms that he envisioned would "level the playing field for all students [and] target schools which don't have access to the best resources." He called for greater access to technology in the classroom and mathematics instruction for kindergarten pupils.
Abbott received $1.4 million in campaign contributions from recipients of the Texas Enterprise Fund, some of whose members submitted the proper paperwork for grants. Elliot Nagin of the Union of Concerned Scientists observed that Abbott was the recipient of large support from the fossil fuels industries, such as NuStar Energy, Koch Industries, Valero Energy, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. Abbott received the endorsement of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Abbott, and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, were endorsed by the National Rifle Association and received their 'A' rating.
In January 2017, Abbott was reportedly raising funds for a 2018 re-election bid as governor; as of December 2016[update], he had $34.4 million on hand for his campaign, of which he had raised $9 million during the second half of 2016. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had been mentioned as a potential challenger, but confirmed that he would run for a second term as lieutenant governor. During the weekend of January 21, 2017, Abbott stated that he intended to run for re-election. He confirmed this on March 28, 2017.
Abbott formally announced his re-election campaign on July 14, 2017. This came four days before the start of a special legislative session that could split the Republican Party into factions favoring Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick on one hand, and House speaker Joe Straus on the other. Straus represented the Moderate Republican faction, which opposes much of the social conservative agenda pursued by Abbott and Patrick.
In the November 6 general election, Abbott defeated Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez with about 56 percent of the vote, having out-raised her 18-to-1. Abbott received 42 percent of the Hispanic and 16 percent of the African-Americans vote.
Abbott is running for a third term and faces challengers from within his own party. His rivals include the former chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West. The opposition Democrats do not yet have an announced candidate. Abbott has a large campaign funding advantage over this opponents.
Abbott was sworn in as the governor of Texas on January 20, 2015 succeeding Rick Perry. He is the first governor of Texas and the third elected governor of a U.S. state to use a wheelchair after Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York (1929–1932) and George Wallace of Alabama (1963–1967, 1971–1979; 1983–1987).
Abbott declared February 2, 2015, as "Chris Kyle Day" in honor of the deceased United States Navy SEAL who was the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history (portrayed in the film American Sniper). This came exactly two years after Kyle was shot and killed. Abbott held his first meeting as governor with a foreign prime minister when he met with the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny on March 15, 2015, to discuss trade and economic relations.
During the 2015 legislative session, initiated by officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Legislature placed a rider in the Texas budget to cut $150 million from its budget by ending payments and coverage for various developmental therapies for children on Medicaid. A lawsuit has been filed against the state on behalf of affected families and therapy providers, claiming it can cause irreparable damage to the affected children's development. The litigation obtained a temporary injunction order on September 25, 2015, barring THHSC from implementing therapy rate cuts.
During Donald Trump's presidency, Abbott was characterized as an "ardent Trump supporter." The Trump administration appointed several former appointees of Abbott to federal court vacancies, which some media outlets attributed to Abbott's influence on the administration.
His 2016 book, Broken But Unbowed, recounted Abbott's personal story and views on politics.
In October 2016, explosive packages were mailed to Abbott, President Obama, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. The governor's package did not explode when he opened it because “he did not open [the package] as intended”.
On June 6, 2017, Abbott called for a special legislative session in order to pass several legislative priorities for Abbott, an agenda supported by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Abbott vetoed 50 bills in the regular 2017 session, the highest number in a session since 2007.
In late November 2016, the State of Texas, at Abbott's request, approved new rules that require facilities that perform abortions either to bury or cremate the aborted, rather than dispose of the remains in a sanitary landfill. The rules were intended to go into effect on December 19, but on December 15 a federal judge blocked the rules from going into effect for at least one month after the Center for Reproductive Rights and other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit. On January 27, 2017, a federal judge ruled against the law, but the State of Texas vowed to appeal the ruling.
On June 6, 2017, Abbott signed a bill into law banning dismemberment and partial-birth abortions and requiring either the cremation or burial of the aborted. The law was also blocked by a federal judge; the state said it would appeal.
On May 18, 2021, Abbott signed the Texas Heartbeat Act into law, legislation that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning most abortions in the state. Fetal heartbeats may be detected as early as six weeks gestation, or six weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Convention of States proposal
In 2016, Abbott spoke to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, calling for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution. In his speech, he proposed the Texas Plan, a series of nine new amendments to "unravel the federal government's decades-long power grab "to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the federal government's power and jurisdiction." The plan would limit the power of the federal government and expand states' rights, allowing the states to nullify federal law under some circumstances.
On January 8, 2016, Abbott called for a national constitutional convention to address what he sees as abuses by justices of the United States Supreme Court in "abandoning the Constitution." Speaking to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Abbott said, "We the people have to take the lead to restore the rule of law in the United States." Abbott elaborated on his proposal in a public seminar at the Hoover Institute on May 17, 2016.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, Abbott called on candidates in the 2020 elections to "back the blue." In response to actions by some Texas cities to redirect funding from police to social services and emergency response, Abbott threatened that the state of Texas would seize control of the local police departments. In 2021, Abbott spearheaded legislative efforts to financially penalize cities in Texas that reduce spending on police.
In 2021, Abbott vetoed a bipartisan criminal justice bill that would have made individuals convicted of certain crimes before the age of 18 eligible for early parole, as well as created panels to evaluate the age and the mental status of inmates at the time of their crimes when evaluating parole eligibility. He also vetoed legislation that would have prohibited police from using statements made under hypnosis in criminal court. He also vetoed an animal protection bill which would have made it illegal to chain up dogs without giving them access to drinkable water, and shade or shelter.
In 2015, Abbott signed the campus carry (SB 11) and the open carry (HB 910) bills into law. The campus carry law came into effect later that year, allowing licensed carrying of a concealed handgun on public college campuses, with private colleges being able to opt out. The open carry bill went into effect in 2016, allowing the licensed carrying of handguns openly in public areas and in private businesses that do not display a 30.07 sign. The 30.07 sign (referring to state penal code 30.07) states that a handgun may not be carried openly even by a licensed gun carrier. To do so openly is considered trespassing. Texas is the 45th state to have open carry. In 2017, Abbott signed a bill into law lowering handgun carry license fees. In 2021, Abbott signed a bill into law that allowed Texans to carry guns without a license.
Following the Sutherland Springs church shooting on November 5, 2017, during an interview with Fox News, Abbott urged historical reflection and the consideration that evil had been present in earlier "horrific events" during the Nazi era, the Middle Ages and biblical times. The Anti-Defamation League said Abbott's comparison of the mass shooting "to the victims of the Holocaust" was "deeply offensive" and "insensitive".
After the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18, 2018, Abbott said that he would consult across Texas in an attempt to prevent gun violence in schools and a series of round-table discussions followed at the state capitol. In a speech to a NRA convention in Dallas almost two weeks later, Abbott said: "The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God". In June 2019, he signed a bill allowing for more armed teachers with school districts being unrestricted as to the number they allow. The creation of "threat assessment teams", passed into law by the bill, is intended to identify potentially violent students. Although the state legislature passed measures for students services to deal with related mental health issues, proposals to adopt a red flag law failed, with Abbott saying such a law was "not necessary in the state of Texas."
In August 2019, a gunman who had written a racist manifesto killed 22 people in a mass shooting at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, saying he had targeted "Mexicans." Following the shooting, Abbott convened a domestic terrorism task force to look into domestic extremism, but reiterated his opposition to a red-flag law and rejected calls to convene a special session of the state legislature to address gun violence.
Jade Helm 15
Abbott on April 28, 2015, asked the State Guard to monitor the training exercise Jade Helm 15 amid Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation was really a hostile military takeover. In 2018 former director of the CIA and NSA Michael Hayden said that the conspiracy theory had been propagated by Russian intelligence organizations and that Abbott's response convinced them of the power such a misinformation campaign could have in the United States.
In 2015, Abbott signed the "Pastor Protection Act," which allows pastors to refuse to marry couples if they feel doing so violates their beliefs.
In 2017, Abbott signed Senate Bill 24 into law, preventing state or local governments from subpoenaing pastors' sermons. This bill was inspired by an anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston, where sermons from five pastors were subpoenaed.
Also in 2017, Abbott signed House Bill 3859 which allows faith-based groups working with the Texas child welfare system to deny services "under circumstances that conflict with the provider's sincerely held religious beliefs." Democrats and civil rights advocates said the adoption bill could allow such groups to discriminate against those who practice a different religion or who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and LGBT rights groups said they would challenge the bill in court. In response, California added Texas to a list of states to which it banned official government travel.
In November 2015, Abbott announced that Texas would refuse Syrian refugees following the Paris terrorist attack that occurred earlier that month. In December 2015, Abbott ordered the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to file a lawsuit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee to block refugee settlement, but the lawsuit was struck down by a federal district court.
On February 1, 2017, Abbott blocked funding to Travis County, Texas, due to its recently implemented sanctuary city policy. On May 7, 2017, Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill 4 into law, targeting sanctuary cities by charging county or city officials who refuse to work with federal officials and by allowing police officers to check the immigration status of those they detain if they choose.
In January 2020, Abbott made Texas the first state to decline refugee resettlement under a new rule implemented by the Trump administration. The move was condemned in a joint statement by all 16 Catholic bishops of Texas.
In 2021, Abbott referred to undocumented immigrants crossing the border as an "invasion." In March 2021, Abbott claimed that the Biden administration was releasing illegal immigrants infected with COVID-19 into Texas, saying "The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities." PolitiFact rated Abbott's claim as "Mostly False", since those being released were asylum seekers with a legal right to remain in the U.S., and the number was well below "hundreds", only 108, at the time of Abbot's tweet.
In June 2021, Abbott ordered Texas child-care regulators to take the licenses of child-care facilities that housed unaccompanied migrant minors. Abbott said that the housing of unaccompanied minors in child-care facilities had a negative impact on facilities housing Texan children in foster care. Later that month, he announced plans to build a border wall with Mexico in his state, saying that the state would provide $250 million and that direct donations from the public would be solicited.
In July 2021, Abbott advised state law enforcement officers to begin arresting illegal migrants for trespassing. Later, on July 27, 2021, Abbott ordered the National Guard to begin helping arrest migrants, and the following day he signed an order to restrict the ground transportation of migrants.
Abbott rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. Abbott has said that the climate is changing, but does not accept the consensus that human activity is the primary contributor to climate change.
In early 2014, Abbott participated in strategy sessions held at the headquarters of the United States Chamber of Commerce, devising a legal strategy for dismantling climate change regulations. In 2016, Abbott supported the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting "He and I teamed up on many lawsuits against the EPA." As Attorney General of Texas, Abbott frequently sued the federal government over environmental regulations.
After Joe Biden was elected President, Abbott vowed to pursue an aggressive legal strategy against environmental regulations implemented by the Biden administration.
Abbott pressed for a purge of nearly 100,000 registered voters from Texas voter rolls. Texas officials initially claimed that the voters to be purged were not American citizens. The purge was canceled in April 2018 after voting rights groups challenged the proposed purge, and officials at the Office of the Texas Secretary of State publicly admitted that tens of thousands of legitimate voters (naturalized citizens) were wrongly flagged for removal. Abbott claimed that he played no role in the voter purge, but emails released in June 2019 showed that Abbott was the driving force behind the Department of Public Safety voter-purge effort.
In September 2020, Abbott issued a proclamation providing that each Texas county could only have a single location where voters could drop off their early voting ballots. Abbott justified the decision by claiming it would prevent "illegal voting" but cited no examples of voter fraud. Election security experts say voter fraud is extremely rare. Also in September 2020, Abbott extended the early voting period for that year's general election due to COVID-19; his decision was opposed by the Republican Party of Texas.
Abbott, a political ally of Donald Trump, made "election integrity" a legislative priority following President Trump's failed attempts to overturn the election results of 2020 United States presidential election by using baseless claims that the results were fraudulent. The resulting legislation was denounced by voting rights advocates and civil rights groups, who accused it disproportionatly affecting voters of color and people with disabilities.
In 2014, Abbott defended Texas' ban on same-sex marriage, which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court. As Attorney General of Texas, Abbott's office argued that the prohibition on same-sex marriage incentivized that children would be born "in the context of stable, lasting relationships."
Abbott condemned Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruling which found prohibitions on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. He said, "the Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter." Shortly thereafter, Abbott filed a lawsuit to stop same-sex spouses of city employees from being covered by benefit policies.
In a letter dated May 27, 2017, the CEOs of 14 large technology companies, including Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, urged Abbott not to pass the what would come to be known as the “bathroom bill:” legislation which would require people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificates, not the one of their choice. The bill was revived by Abbott and supported by Republican lieutenant governor Dan Patrick. In March 2018, Byron Cook, the chairman of the House State Affairs committee who blocked the bill, claimed that Abbott privately opposed the bill. The bill was never signed; Abbott later stated that "it's not on my agenda," in a debate with Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.
Amid child development concerns, in 2017, Abbott signed legislation to allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse same-sex families from adopting children.
In June 2019, the city of Austin introduced an ordinance that repealed a 25-year-old ban on homeless people camping, lying, or sleeping in public. In early October 2019, Abbott sent a widely publicized letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler criticizing the camping ban repeal and threatened to deploy state resources to combat homelessness.
In November 2019, Abbott directed the State of Texas to open a temporary homeless encampment on a former vehicle storage yard owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, which was informally dubbed "Abbottville" by camp residents.
In 2019, when numerous local prosecutors announced that they would stop prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses, Abbott instructed them to continue enforcing marijuana laws. The prosecutors cited recently passed legislation that legalized hemp. As hemp contains the same chemical, THC, that marijuana does, tests that are at the disposal of law enforcement cannot distinguish between marijuana usage and hemp usage. Abbott has stated that legalized hemp products come with a "hemp certificate".
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott issued a stay-at-home order from April 2 to May 1, 2020. This was one of the shortest stay-at-home orders implemented by any governor. Since the reopening, coronavirus surged across Texas, leading Abbott to pause the gradual re-opening. On June 24, 2020, Texas broke its record in terms of number of new coronavirus cases in a day. Critics described Abbott's pause as a half-measure, arguing that he should reverse the re-opening in full to stave off the spread of the virus.
According to The New York Times, Abbott's response to the pandemic has been contradictory, as he has said that Texans should stay at home while also saying that Texas is open for business. He also said that Texans should wear face masks, but refused to issue a statewide mandate. Abbott's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has received criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. In July 2020, Abbott directed counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases to wear masks in public places; he had previously prohibited local governments from implementing required face masks.
In December 2020, Abbott directed restaurants in Texas to ignore local curfews that had been imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Localities had implemented restrictions on indoor dining and drinking late at night on New Years weekend amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On March 2, 2021, Abbott lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in Texas, which included ending a mask mandate and allow businesses to open up "100 percent."
In April 2021, Abbott signed an executive order banning state agencies and corporations that take public funding from requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19. In June 2021, Abbott signed a bill that would punish businesses that require customers to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination for services.
On May 18, 2021, Abbott issued an executive order banning mask mandates in public schools and governmental entities, with up to a $1,000 fine for non-compliers.
Abbott has emphasized personal responsibility over government restrictions, and has doubled down on this in recent weeks. On July 29, 2021, in the face of a once-again worsening pandemic situation, Abbott issued a superseding executive order (GA-38) that restated earlier orders and imposed additional prohibitions on local governmental officials, state agencies, public universities, and businesses doing business with the state, to prohibit them from adopting measures such as requiring face masks or proof of vaccination status as a condition of service. The order also provides for a $1,000 fine for local officials who adopt inconsistent policies. US President Biden criticized Abbott for these measures. The ban on mask mandates has led to a score of legal challenges between Abbott and local governments, including school districts.
On August 17, 2021, Abbott’s office announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated since December of last year. According to his office, Abbott is “in good health and experiencing no symptoms”. He received Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment.
February 2021 North American ice storm
During the February 13–17, 2021 North American winter storm, power plants failures across Texas left four million households in Texas without power. Abbott called for investigation and reform of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the electric grid operator for most of Texas.
On February 16, as a guest on Hannity, Abbott stated, "This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America ... Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. ... It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary." There was an immediate response from the energy department of the state of Texas, clarifying that "most of Texas's energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines." Most power plants in Texas are gas-fired, with wind generators providing about 10 percent during the winter months.
By February 18, Abbott had ordered Texas natural gas to sell exclusively to power generators in Texas, which had an immediate and direct impact on Mexico, where two-thirds of all energy is generated by gas-fired plants.
In June 2021, Abbott signed a bill requiring power companies to be more prepared for extreme weather events.
Abbott, a Roman Catholic, is married to Cecilia Phalen Abbott, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. They were married in San Antonio in 1981. His election as governor of Texas made her the first Latina to be First Lady of Texas since Texas joined the union. They have one adopted daughter, Audrey. Cecilia is a former school teacher and principal.
Abbott suffered second- and third-degree burns on his legs after coming in contact with scalding water while on vacation in Wyoming in July 2016, which caused him to miss the 2016 Republican National Convention.
On November 4, 2014, Abbott defeated Wendy Davis by 21 points in the gubernatorial general election of Texas. According to exit polls he received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and 50 percent of Hispanic men, a majority (54 percent) of women voters, and 62 percent of the votes of married women (75 percent of women in Texas are married).
|Independent||Sarah M. Pavitt||1,168||<0.1|
|Democratic||Barbara Ann Radnofsky||1,655,859||33.7|
|Democratic||David Van Os||1,599,069||37.2|
|Green||David Keith Cobb||41,560||0.9|
|Democratic||David Van Os||1,396,924||39.9|
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'In spite of the Democrats increasing their election turnout, we were able to grow our turnout as well, and do so enough that for the 12th election in a row, every single statewide office was retained by Republicans,' James Dickey said. He added that Latino voters, 42 percent of whom voted for Abbott, will continue playing a key role for the Texas GOP.
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Abbott's prioritization of election security comes three months following a November election after which top Texas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Attorney General Ken Paxton, played central roles in fueling former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread fraud. Those conspiracies led to a violent siege on the U.S. Capitol the day Congress met to certify the results last month. Abbott was among the Republicans who did not immediately recognize Biden's victory after major news outlets declared him the winner, and he was later supportive of Paxton's unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the results in four battleground states.
- Multiple sources:
- Ura, Alexa (May 7, 2021). "Texas GOP's voting restrictions bill could be rewritten behind closed doors after final House passage". The Texas Tribune.
But both the original SB 7 and the original provisions of HB 6 were opposed by civil rights groups who raised the prospect that the legislation violates federal safeguards for voters of color. Republicans’ efforts to further restrict voting in the state come as their presidential margins of victory continue to thin and Democrats drive up their votes in diverse urban centers and growing suburban communities.
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Senate Bill 7 is part of a broader package of proposals to constrain local initiatives widening voter access in urban areas, made up largely by people of color, that favor Democrats.
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The bill is one of two major voting packages in Texas that mirrors a nationwide campaign by Republicans after former President Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud. Voting rights groups say the measures would disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority voters.
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Critics of the Senate bill said most of its provisions were less about making voting secure than about making it harder, particularly for urban voters and minority voters, two groups that tend to vote for Democrats.
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[President of the Texas Civil Rights Project] said many of the bill's provisions would disproportionately affect voters of color. The extended voting hours in Harris County, for example, were mostly used by voters of color. Fifty-six percent of voters who cast ballots in late night hours were Black, Hispanic or Asian, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project.
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Advocates say the changes would disproportionately affect minorities and people with disabilities.
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While Senate Bill 7 would have wide-ranging effects on voters across the state, it includes specific language that critics say would disproportionately affect people of color — particularly those who live in under-resourced and urban communities.
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According to the NBC exit poll, Abbott and Davis split the 18- to 29-year-old cohort evenly, while married women went 62 percent for Abbott (he received 54 percent from all female voters), and a near-record 44 percent of Hispanics cast their ballots for the Republican gubernatorial candidate.
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The exit polls showed Greg Abbott won 54 percent of women, 50 percent of Hispanic men and won 44 percent of Hispanics overall—all of which are traditionally strong Democratic groups.
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