|48th Governor of Texas|
January 20, 2015
|Preceded by||Rick Perry|
|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|
|Preceded by||Jack Hightower|
|Succeeded by||Xavier Rodriguez|
|Born||Gregory Wayne Abbott
November 13, 1957
Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Cecilia Phalen (1981–present)|
|Children||1 adopted daughter|
|Education||University of Texas, Austin (BBA)
Vanderbilt University (JD)
Gregory Wayne "Greg" Abbott (born November 13, 1957) is an American lawyer and politician who currently serves as the 48th Governor of Texas since January 2015. He was the 50th Attorney General of Texas and is a Republican.
Abbott was only the second Republican to serve as Attorney General of Texas since Reconstruction. Prior to assuming the office of Attorney General, he was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, a position to which he was initially appointed in 1995 by then-Governor George W. Bush. He is noted outside of Texas for successfully advocating the right of the state of Texas to display the Ten Commandments in front of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, in a 2005 United States Supreme Court case known as Van Orden v. Perry.
- 1 Early life, education, and early law career
- 2 Judicial career
- 3 Attorney General of Texas
- 4 Governor of Texas
- 5 Election history
- 6 Personal life
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early life, education, and early law career
Abbott was born on November 13, 1957 in Wichita Falls, of English descent. His mother, the former Doris Lechristia Jacks, was a homemaker, and his father, Calvin Roger Abbott, was a stockbroker and insurance agent. When he was six years old they moved to Longview and 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, and 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 and won every meet he entered his senior year. He was in the National Honor Society and was voted "Most Likely to Succeed".
In 1981, he 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 J.D. degree from the Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee. He commented about his marriage, that "San Antonio is also where Cecilia and I got married at Our Lady of the Lake, 31 years ago. Our marriage wasn’t just the joining of two families. It was a uniting of cultures: My Anglo heritage and Cecilia’s Irish and Hispanic heritage. We may have come from different cultures but we realized that we share the same foundation: “Dos casas. Pero, una fundacion."The story of my family is as old as the story of Texas itself: the uniting of cultures to create one unique people, Texans."
He went into private practice, working for Butler and Binion, LLC between 1984 and 1992. Abbott’s political career began in Houston, where he served as a state trial judge in the 129th District Court for three years.
Abbott became a paraplegic when an oak tree fell on him while he was jogging following a storm in 1984. 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 negotiated an insurance settlement worth more than US$10 million, resulting in payouts of US$14,000 a month. Abbott later championed laws capping punitive damages to two times the amount of economic damages awarded plus US$750,000. While the current law caps punitive damages, which are meant to punish gross negligence or bad faith, the law still allows payments for medical costs, potential lost wages, economic damages and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for the Abbott campaign, said that Abbott did not seek punitive damages in his lawsuit.
Governor George W. Bush appointed Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court, and he was then twice elected to the state's highest civil court—in 1996 (two-year term) and 1998 (six-year term). In 1996, Abbott had no Democratic opponent but was challenged by Libertarian John B. Hawley of Dallas. Abbott defeated Hawley 84%-16%. In 1998, Abbott defeated Democrat David Van Os 60%-40%.
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 current State Senator Kirk Watson, 57%-41%. Abbott was sworn in on December 2, 2002, following fellow Republican John Cornyn's election to the U.S. Senate.
Abbott expanded the Attorney General's office’s law enforcement division from about thirty people to more than one hundred. He also created a new division called the Fugitive Unit to track down convicted sex offenders in violation of their paroles or probations.
Abbott has spoken out against concerns such as voter fraud, the right to bear arms, and President Barack Obama's health care reform. When asked what his job entails, Abbott says: "I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." Abbott has filed suit against various U.S. agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (including challenges to Obamacare), and the Department of Education, among many others.
Abbott has said that the state must not release Tier II Chemical Inventory Reports for security reasons, but that Texan citizens "can ask every facility whether or not 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.
Lawsuit against Sony BMG
On November 21, 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 play 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. But, Abbott alleges in the lawsuit that even if consumers reject that agreement, spyware is secretly installed on their computers, which pose security risks for music buyers. Abbott said "We keep discovering additional methods Sony used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music", and "Thousands of Texans are now potential victims of this deceptive game Sony played with consumers for its own purposes." In addition to violations of the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, which allows for civil penalties of 100,000 for each violation of the law, the alleged violations added in the updated lawsuit, on December 21, 2005, carry maximum penalties of 20,000 per violation.
Van Orden v. Perry
On March 2, 2005, Abbott appeared before the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where he defended a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol. Dozens of similar monuments were donated to cities and towns across the nation throughout the 1960s by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who were inspired by the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments; in doing so, they gained the support of the film's director Cecil B. DeMille. 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".
In the November 7 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 60%-37%.
Abbott ran for a third term, and campaigned for other Republican candidates in 2010 including Jim Landtroop, the Plainview insurance agent. While on his Plainview stop, Abbott cited his and Landtroop's mutual opposition to the health care plan signed into law in March 2010 by President Barack Obama. He defeated the Democratic attorney Barbara Ann Radnofsky of Houston and, the Libertarian Jon Roland once again. Radnofsky was also the unsuccessful Democratic candidate opposing U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2006 general election. Abbott defeated Radnofsky 64%-34%. 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
On July 14, 2013, speaking near the Alamo on the 29th anniversary of the accident that left him a paraplegic, Abbott formally 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 funds 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.
In February 2014, while speaking on the dangers of corruption in law enforcement, Abbott compared the South Texas area to a Third World country that "erodes the social fabric of our communities and destroys Texans' trust and confidence in government." Abbott further said that he does not consider corruption "limited to one region of Texas […] My plan is to add more resources to eliminate corruption so people can have confidence in their government."
Abbott criticized Ted Nugent's infamous "subhuman mongrel" comment directed at President Barack Obama by saying "This is not the kind of language I would use or endorse in any way. It's time to move beyond this, and I will continue to focus on the issues that matter to Texans."
Abbott won the Republican primary on March 4, 2014, with 1,219,903, or 91.5 percent of the ballots cast. The remaining approximately 103,000 votes were divided among three minor candidates. He faced state Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who polled 432,065 votes (79.1 percent) in her Democratic primary contest against a lone opponent.
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 is that Davis has proposed universal pre-K education while Abbott wants to limit state funding to only programs that meet certain standards. Davis' plan could reach 750 million in costs and Abbott has said that Davis' plan is a "budget buster" whereas Abbott's education plan would cost no more than 118 million.
Overall, Abbott said the reforms that he envisions would "level the playing field for all students [and] target schools which don't have access to the best resources." He has called for increased accessibility to technology in the classroom and mathematics instruction for kindergarten pupils.
In January 2017, Abbott was reported to be raising funds for a 2018 re-election bid as governor, and as of December 2016 he had $34.4 million on hand for his campaign and raised $9 million of that during the second half of 2016. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had been mentioned as a potential challenger for governor but confirmed he would run for a second term as lieutenant governor. During the weekend of January 21, 2017, Abbott stated he was intending on running for re-election.
Abbott declared February 2, 2015 to be "Chris Kyle Day", after the United States Navy SEAL who was the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history who was portrayed in the highly successful 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.
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 is really a hostile military takeover.
On June 11, 2015, Abbott signed a bill into law allowing pastors to refuse marrying couples if it violates their beliefs.
On June 13, 2015, Abbott signed the campus carry (SB 11) and the open carry (HB 910) bills into law. The campus carry law went into effect on August 1, 2015 and allows the 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 on January 1, 2016 and allows the licensed carrying of handguns openly in all locations that allow concealed carry. Texas is the 45th state to have open carry.
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." Abbott proposed passing nine new amendments to the Constitution, intended to limit the power of the federal government and expand states rights. 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."
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.
In late November 2016, the State of Texas, under Abbott, approved new rules that require facilities that perform abortions to either bury or cremate the aborted, rather than dispose 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 to rules from going into effect for at least one month after pro-abortion groups filed a lawsuit. On january 27, 2017, a federal judge ruled against the law, but the State of Texas vowed the appeal the ruling.
Unlike his two predecessors Bush and Perry, Abbott has said he has no intention of running for U.S. President.
On November 4, 2014, Abbott defeated Wendy Davis by 21 points. 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% of women in Texas are married).
A week after his election, Abbott announced that Carlos Cascos, of Brownsville, the county judge since 2007 of Cameron County in far South Texas, will become the Secretary of State of Texas. In the same election in which Abbott defeated Wendy Davis, Cascos, a Republican, won a third term as county judge but resigned in January 2015 upon confirmation by the Texas Senate, to become secretary of state.
Abbott, a Roman Catholic, is married to Mexican-American Cecilia Phalen Abbott, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. His election as governor of Texas makes her the first Latina to be the First Lady of Texas since Texas joined the union. They have one adopted daughter, Audrey. They were married in San Antonio in 1981. Cecilia is a former school teacher and principal. He is the first elected governor of a U.S. state to use a wheelchair since George Wallace of Alabama, 1983–87.
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 Republican National Convention.
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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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|Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court
|Attorney General of Texas
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for Governor of Texas
|Governor of Texas
January 20, 2015–present
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Vice President
|Order of Precedence of the United States
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
as Governor of Florida
|Order of Precedence of the United States
as Governor of Iowa