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(Bloomberg) -- Texas Governor Greg Abbott told his fellow conservatives that they don’t need to worry about transplants from California and New York turning the state blue ahead of his re-election.
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Abbott spoke about the state’s strong job creation and influx of new businesses and residents, in particular from California, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Thursday. He also suggested that many of the California newcomers are conservative and that liberal Texans have moved to the west coast.
“We have an exchange program going on,” Abbott said in jest as the crowd cheered. “We’re getting the California conservatives, we’re sending them our liberals.”
Abbott’s remarks highlight the fear of some long-time Texas residents that newcomers from the coastal cities may bring liberal politics from their home states.
Abbott’s popularity has declined over his tenure, and a recent poll showed that 36% of Texans rate him as very unfavorable, compared to 19% who say he is very favorable. The two-term incumbent governor spoke to a half-empty room.
Polling shows that Abbott is expected to defeat Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, although his lead has narrowed in recent months after events like the Uvalde school shooting and the US Supreme Court overturning the nationwide right to an abortion.
While many transplants to Texas have come from left-leaning places like California and New York, they have proved to be more conservative than thought. Newcomers voted for Republican Ted Cruz in his 2018 Senate re-election bid at a higher rate than those born in the state, according to a CNN exit poll.
Numerous high-profile companies have relocated or planned large expansions in the state in recent years, including Tesla Inc’s new headquarters in Austin, Samsung Electronics Co’s $17 billion chip facility in Taylor and Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s new office tower in Dallas. Many of these company expansions bring in new, high-paying jobs, which ultimately will drive up prices for housing and other living costs in a state that has long used affordability as a draw.
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During his appearance at CPAC, Abbott spoke about his efforts to secure the border, which has been one of his top priorities as he campaigns for re-election on Nov. 8 against O’Rourke. He also said that parents should have a say in their children’s education, which has been a policy priority for Texas Republicans as they focus on school choice and prohibiting books that involve gender and identity.
At the state GOP convention in June, the governor opted to speak at a separate event across the street from where most of the activities were taking place. He’s faced opposition within his own party and ran against a handful of candidates in the primary race in March. Many Republicans are unhappy with the governor for his use of executive authority during the pandemic.
CPAC brings together various high-profile conservatives and Republicans to discuss policy at conferences around the country. The group kicked off its four-day conference in Dallas Thursday.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Senator Ted Cruz and US Representative Mayra Flores will also speak at CPAC, joining Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and former President Donald Trump.
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