Thursday April 26th, 2018 9:40AM

Texas Gov. Abbott begins re-election bid with no rivals yet

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched his re-election bid Friday with no clear rival in sight, the money to likely outspend any eventual challenger and a new immigration crackdown that could test in 2018 support among Hispanic voters he aggressively courted four years ago.

Supporters cheered as Abbott lauded a new Texas ban on "sanctuary cities" while kicking off his campaign in San Antonio — which has joined Houston, Dallas and Austin in suing to block the law that empowers police to ask people during routine stops whether they're in the U.S. legally. Police chiefs and sheriffs can also face jail themselves if they don't comply with federal immigration detainers.

The bill known as SB4 has become the most polarizing — and arguably defining — moment for Abbott since easily winning office in 2014 and making inroads for the GOP with Hispanics in doing so. Beleaguered Texas Democrats, who haven't won of statewide race since 1994, say voters in a state growing more Hispanic by the day won't stand for what the party chairman called a "state-sponsored deportation force."

But so far, there isn't even a whiff from Democrats of who might run against Abbott, whose 20-point trouncing of Wendy Davis last time lingers as a stinging reality check for the party.

"It is irresponsible and reckless to release known criminals back onto the streets," Abbott said of SB4. "In Texas, we expect our elected official to enforce the law. If they don't want to enforce the law, they just need to step aside."

Police removed a few protesters from the event Friday, including a woman who was carried out by officers. Supporters drowned out one interruption by chanting Abbott's name.

Just as he did last time, Abbott launched his campaign on July 14, the anniversary of a tree falling on him in 1984 and paralyzing him from the waist down. Abbott is the first governor in Texas history to use a wheelchair and says the accident gave him resolve and keeps politics in perspective.

His personal story was the narrative thread of his first run for governor, when his low-key persona was seen by many Republicans as a refreshing change after 14 years of braggadocio under former Gov. Rick Perry, who is now President Donald Trump's energy secretary. But he has angered Democrats with both SB4 and his support for a "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people, which Abbott is reviving in a special legislative session starting Tuesday.

Major corporations including Google and Amazon have urged Texas not to put bathroom restrictions on transgender people, and on Sunday, computer giant IBM will run full-page ads in Texas' biggest newspapers that say "No one should face discrimination for being who they are."

Abbott, who runs the biggest red state in America, made no mention of Trump in his re-election kickoff. Hillary Clinton lost Texas to Trump by 9 points, which Texas Democrats took as some silver lining after years of double-digit defeats.

"We endure and we will not let fear-mongering Republicans and nonsense hold us back," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. "After 2016, Texas is a single-digit state and more Democrats are fired up than ever before."

Two of the biggest Democratic stars in Texas, congressman Joaquin Castro and twin brother Julian, who was President Barack Obama's housing secretary, have signaled they will sit out statewide races in 2018.

Abbott will have a massive fundraising leg up on any contender — he's socked away at least $35 million in his campaign bankroll and will likely announce a bigger haul next week.

Census figures show that the Hispanic population in Texas grew three times that of whites between 2010 and 2016. Abbott, whose wife is the first Latina first lady of Texas, captured 44 percent of Hispanic voters last time in the strongest showing by a Republican candidate since former Gov. George W. Bush.

Abbott has called some protests to SB4 fearmongering and says only lawbreakers have anything to worry about. Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said the crackdown won't necessarily cost Abbott votes next year.

"The risks for Gov. Abbott are that SB4 locates him in the same arena as President Trump," said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, referring to the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration. "But all this speculation hinges on Democrats fielding a competitive candidate. And right now it's still crickets."


This version of the story corrects the 2nd paragraph to say Abbott lauded the "sanctuary cities" ban. The earlier version said it was not mentioned.


Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter:

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Get ready for more uncertainty in the ACC's Coastal Division
The Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division looks like it will feature its traditional uncertainty in 2017
5:07PM ( 8 minutes ago )
FANTASY PLAYS: Quintana's value after trade to Cubs
FANTASY PLAYS: Quintana's value after trade to Cubs
5:06PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump's son's meeting, too
A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump's son that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican campaign
5:06PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump, administration press Republicans to back health bill
President Donald Trump and other administration are lobbying Republicans from both sides of the Atlantic to back the Senate GOP's reworked health care bill
4:49PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Travel ban ruling paves way for more refugees but appeal set
A court decision on President Donald Trump's travel ban has reopened a window to tens of thousands of refugees to enter the United States and the government is looking to quickly close it
4:41PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Top House Republican says budget plan to move ahead
A Republican leader says the House is moving ahead with the party's long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure
4:31PM ( 44 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Trump campaign data chief to talk to House Russia panel
President Donald Trump's campaign data and digital director says he plans to speak with the House Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia probe
2:52PM ( 2 hours ago )
Donnelly selling stock in family company using Mexican labor
Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly says he's selling his stock in a family business that relies on Mexican labor to produce dye for ink pads
1:31PM ( 3 hours ago )
Russian-American lobbyist says he was in Trump son's meeting
A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump's son that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican campaign
12:52PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Trump says most 'would have taken that meeting'
President Donald Trump is addressing the controversy over his eldest son's meeting with a Russian attorney during last year's presidential campaign
3:17PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Exclusive: Senator's family business uses Mexican labor
An arts and crafts business Sen. Joe Donnelly's family has owned for generations relies in part on Mexican manufacturing, even though the Indiana Democrat denounced Carrier Corp. last year for outsourcing jobs to Mexico
1:54PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Explains: How do politicians collect opposition research?
The typically inside-the-Beltway term 'opposition research' has burst onto the public stage with the recent disclosure that Trump's eldest son was receptive to an offer from a "Russian government attorney" for dirt on Hillary Clinton
7:41AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump's son's meeting, too
A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump's son that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican campaign
5:06PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Patrol vehicle collides with garbage truck, killing trooper
Authorities say a marked patrol vehicle collided with a garbage truck, killing one state trooper and leaving his partner with a concussion in western Pennsylvania
5:02PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Ex-player sues Ohio St. for using image in marketing program
Some of Ohio State's most famous student-athletes have sued the university over a marketing program the ex-athletes say used their photos without permission and robbed them of compensation
4:59PM ( 16 minutes ago )
2 homes, 1 boat swallowed by growing sinkhole in Florida
A sinkhole in Florida swallowed a boat, destroyed two houses and prompted officials to evacuate residents from about a dozen homes Friday
4:54PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Citigroup profit falls 3 percent, hurt by credit costs
Citigroup profit falls 3 percent as bank sets aside more money to cover souring loans
4:52PM ( 23 minutes ago )