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Gov. Greg Abbott, campaigning for reelection, was in Fort Worth on Saturday where he boasted about jobs in the state, border security and his work as Texas governor.
Standing on a stage at the Fort Worth Zoo, a Texas flag as the backdrop, Abbott told a tent of supporters Republicans would win in 2022, slamming Democrats “socialists who are trying to destroy the United States of America.”
“Have y’all heard all this talk, it began after the last election, that Democrats thought that, oh, they’re going to make end roads into winning Tarrant County, to winning Fort Worth, Texas,” Abbott said. “Let me tell you something, we are going to destroy the Democrats in Tarrant County and defeat them in the great state of Texas.”
Abbott is in the March Republican primary with seven opponents, including former Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West and former Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines. Abbott’s stop in Fort Worth, where he was introduced by longtime Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who isn’t seeking reelection, is one of several he’s made around the state in recent days.
Dallas-Fort Worth is among the urban areas of the state where TCU Political Science Professor Jim Riddlesperger expects Abbott to spend a lot of time in ahead of the March 1 primary. That’s where the votes are, he said.
“Dallas-Fort Worth is hugely important and Tarrant County is important, of course, because proportionally there are more Republican voters in Tarrant County. So, both parties are going to exert huge efforts in Tarrant County, because it potentially is a swing county in Texas compared to the other urban areas that are relatively solid Democratic territory.”
During his about 20-minute speech, Abbott touted Texas’ job and economic opportunities, criticized the Green New Deal and blasted “critical race theory” as invading schools, touting related legislation he signed into law.
He decried efforts to “defund” law enforcement and the Biden administration’s handing of the U.S.-Mexico border. He also noted recent legislation that made Texas a “constitutional carry” state, allowing the carrying of handguns without a permit.
While he has multiple primary challengers, Abbott did not focus on them in his speech, largely avoiding mention of his opponents, with the exception of Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
“Robert Francis O’Rourke himself has supported disenfranchising first amendment rights by defunding any church from its tax exempt status that refuses to bow down to the woke radical agenda,” Abbott said. “That is wrong and I will not allow it in Texas.”
Abbott was referring to O’Rourke’s remarks in 2019 when, according to the Texas Tribune, he said religious institutions should lose tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. O’Rourke’s campaign reached for comment, said Abbott was lying to “distract from his failures managing the state of Texas.” They also sent a statement from Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, the pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, endorsing O’Rourke.
“Beto was never referring to churches that ideologically oppose same-sex marriage,” Spokesperson Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “The U.S. constitution makes clear that what we believe and the way that we practice our faith within a mosque, temple, synagogue, or church is our own business, not the government’s business. However, when a religiously-affiliated institution is providing services in the public sphere — say, higher education or health care — and it discriminates or denies equal treatment under the law based on someone’s skin color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, that should not be tolerated for the same reason that a religious affiliated hospital cannot deny visitation rights for an interracial couple.”
I have colleagues throughout the state who recognize O’Rourke as an ally and advocate of faith communities because he doesn’t just talk about it, he is about it! Don’t buy another Abbot lie.”
Abbott said there are people running for office in Texas who want to “rewrite and redesign the United States of America, and they want to alter the great state of Texas.”
“We must band together and ensure they do not ever gain control of government in our great state,” he said. “That process of defeating the radical leftist and making sure we win begins right here, right now, in Fort Worth Texas and continues every single day, all the way to Election Day.”
Ahead of his speech and as he spoke, some in the crowd held signs, one of which read “Vote for Abbott for a Strong Economy.”
Christie Cole of Fort Worth was there with her kids to show them “it’s good to support our governor and support our elected officials.” Cole has already made up her mind that she’ll vote for Abbott.
Barb Williams and her husband Bob were excited about the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers and commended Abbott’s handing of COVID-19. Abbott has received push back from the left and right for his pandemic response.
Rep. Giovanni Caprigione, R-Southlake, was among a few state lawmakers at the event. In an interview with the Star-Telegram, he offered his endorsement of the governor.
“I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of working with him closely to deliver conservative results for the state of Texas,” he said. “Historic border security investment, property tax reduction, fiscally conservative budgets. passed legislation to stop defunding of police.”
Ahead of the events start, several members of the Tarrant County Democratic Woman’s Club stood outside the driveway entrance to the zoo, holding signs opposing Abbott. One read: “MY BODY MY CHOICE! I VOTE FOR FREEDOM.”
“What we’d really like people to understand is, there’s another side to the story,” said Gerri Hall. “And the other side to the story is, people are dying. Women can’t get healthcare. Kids can’t get into school and COVID is increasing all because of the Republican Party and Abbott’s leadership.”