Get to know Texas’ new governor, Greg Abbott

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By Patricia Brennan

Staff Writer

 

 

 

Following Rick Perry's 14 years as governor, Greg Abbott takes office with the goals of strengthening education in Texas and championing state sovereignty.  -Photo courtesy of Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News
Following Rick Perry’s 14 years as governor, Greg Abbott takes office with the goals of strengthening education in Texas and championing state sovereignty.
-Photo courtesy of Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News

Greg Abbott, former Texas attorney general, was elected governor this past November in the first open election that state has held since 1990. Abbott, the Republican candidate, gained 59.25 percent of the vote. The following are facts about Texas’ new governor.

Previous career

Abbott is a lawyer and received his law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1984. He was personally appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by then-Governor George W. Bush in 1995. Abbott served as attorney general for three terms before running for the governor’s office in 2014.

The wheelchair

In 1984 an oak tree fell on Abbott, making him a paraplegic. He has used a wheelchair since the incident, and is the first United States governor to use one since Alabama’s George Wallace in 1982. Abbott later spearheaded efforts to implement limits to punitive damages that he did not seek in his own lawsuit. He formally announced his intention to run for governor in July of 2013 on the anniversary of the incident that cost him the use of his legs.

His main opponent for governor

State Senator Wendy Davis was his most notable opponent. The Democrat is known for her filibuster of a bill to create more regulations for abortion. Coming into the election, expectations were high for Davis, a Harvard graduate. She appeared to be a popular candidate, yet she garnered only 38.9 percent of the vote. A significant amount of her support came from out of state, with 15 percent of her donations coming from non-Texas residents.

The new first lady

Abbott has been married to his wife Cecilia for 33 years. The first Hispanic First Lady of Texas, Cecilia has spent many years in teaching and administration across the state. Most recently she was the principal of Austin’s Cathedral School of St. Mary until 2001. She holds three degrees from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, including a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and master’s degrees in education and theology. She serves on the advisory board for various charities, programs and schools, including the Holy Trinity Seminary. In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Kent Sullivan, a lawyer who worked with Abbott, said Cecilia provided crucial support after her husband became paralyzed. Sullivan also cited her influence in Abbott’s conversion to Roman Catholicism following the accident. The couple has an adopted 17-year-old daughter, Audrey.

On the issues

Abbott is a strong defender of the Constitution, and fought against the Obama administration during his time as attorney general. He has championed the cause of state sovereignty, which is a factor in his popularity among many Republicans. He has sued the Obama administration a total of 30 times, and has opposed Obamacare. A staunch conservative, Abbott is likely to promote traditional Republican values regarding abortion and gun control.

Dr. Richard Dougherty, an associate politics professor at the University of Dallas, offered some insight on the new governor.

“Abbott himself has made comments about how as attorney general he’s had to make fewer political decisions, which I think has insulated him against some criticism,” he said. “I think he’s entering a new era for himself, because now he’s in a position where he will have to make political decisions.”

With Greg Abbott as governor, Dougherty predicts that there will not be much change in the administration.

“It’s most likely that Governor Abbott will just continue to build upon the good Governor Perry did for the state, though he may place more of a focus on the state involvement in education,” he said.

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