The Republican Governors Association certainly has its hands full in the upcoming election cycle. Counting the off-year elections this November and the 2018 midterms, 38 gubernatorial seats are up for grabs – 27 of those seats are currently held by Republicans. GOP governors will be mostly playing defense while Democrats will try to use the gubernatorial races as a stepping stone to rebuilding their party.
But there is one Republican governor who has nothing to sweat about.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has amassed a nearly $41 million campaign war chest – a record setting number. Even for the behemoth Lone Star State, this is a jaw-dropping amount. The governor raised $10 million in the last 12 days of June alone. While promising to keep Texas in conservative hands, Abbott officially announced his intention to seek re-election Friday in San Antonio.
The state’s top executive apparently has no real competition in sight. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the only possible candidate to mount a formidable primary challenge, has repeatedly denied any interest in doing so. The lieutenant governor instead has opted to run for re-election. As for a general election, no serious Democrats have stepped up to the plate. Jeffrey Payne, a small business owner in Dallas, threw his hat in the ring and pledged to loan his campaign $2.5 million. However, Payne comes with zero political experience and is in a same-sex marriage – something that likely won’t help with the traditional voters of Texas.
Another daunting fact to consider as liberals look to recruit candidates across the state: Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to any statewide office since 1994.
With no real threat facing him at the ballot box, Abbott is directing his campaign’s mammoth infrastructure towards his legislative agenda. A special session in Austin is fast underway and the governor has an ambitious 20-item agenda he plans to push through. Abbott is making it well known that lawmakers who support his bills will get a hand up during election time – and those who oppose his legislative agenda will come to regret it. Major agenda items include a $1,000 pay raise for teachers, property tax reform and a contentious “bathroom bill” that has national progressives fuming.
“We are and will continue to aggressively and robustly support members of the Legislature who support us,” Dave Carney, Abbott’s chief strategist, stated in an interview with the Texas Tribune. “Those who are on our team — we’ll have their back.”
Unlike the last election cycle, Abbott will be getting much more involved in the upcoming state legislative races. His campaign has installed a satellite office within its headquarters and will be using it to communicate to the public extensively during the special session. Aides claim Abbott will conduct over 20 radio interviews and over 30 TV interviews during the first two weeks of the session. He wants to convey the message to state lawmakers that the public supports his agenda.
Not impressed yet? The Texas governor has also promised to keep a list of all lawmakers who oppose him during the special session. Any legislator hoping Abbott will forget a past transgression should not feel so lucky. “I’m going to be establishing a list,” he warned to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”
A few bill authors (of legislation the governor is pushing) are already attracting primary challengers in their home districts. These state legislators can count on Abbott’s massive network for assistance. His operation already touts seven regional directors and 37 field organizers – a team that has already knocked on 10,000 doors.
State Rep. Travis Clardy (R) has a primary challenger attempting to unseat him, but the Abbott ally doesn’t appear scared. “When it comes to election season, I’m sure Gov. Abbott is going to be there for me,” Clardy stated, “just like I’m going to be there for Gov. Abbott.”