McALLEN — Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott called for unity between Republican candidates and Hispanics in McAllen on Monday, with the promise of being in South Texas much more.
As evidence voters should elect him governor in 2014, Abbott cited the 27 lawsuits he’s brought against the federal government as Texas attorney general, and he spoke of fighting against human trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley.
He announced his campaign Sunday in San Antonio, 29 years to the day after an accident paralyzed him and left him in a wheelchair, his campaign staff said.
“What I can tell you is by me being here on my first full day running for governor, I’m trying to show the people of the Valley my commitment to them,” Abbott said in an interview with the media, asking whether he thought the region has long been ignored by Austin. “In Austin, Texas, with me as governor, they will not be ignored. They will be a priority.”
Abbot made a strong effort to woo Hispanics, remarking on his long marriage to wife Cecilia Abbott, a Latina, and stating Republican and Hispanic values are the same: family, faith and free enterprise.
“Even though we came from different families and different backgrounds, the reason we succeeded is because our value system is the same,” Abbott said of his marriage. “Dos casas para una fundación (two homes for one foundation.) We will build upon that foundation in the future.”
The meet-and-greet at El Pato restaurant on 10th Street drew at least 120 people, the standing room capacity of the restaurant, according to a manager. Among the guests were Pharr police Chief Ruben Villescas, UT System Regent Ernie Aliseda, McAllen school board member Hilda Garza-DeShazo and Republican Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos.
Cascos — who cited himself as evidence that Republicans and Hispanics can be one and the same — said Abbott’s visit is an indication he’s going to make a genuine effort to win votes in South Texas.
Abbott, who is currently viewed as the race’s front runner as cited in media reports, repeated several remarks he’d already made in San Antonio, according to media reports, including a reference to the accident that led to steel rods being placed in his back.
“You all have heard politicians tell you before that they have a spine of steel. Well I really do have a spine of steel,” he said, adding that Texans’ lives have also been defined in how they’ve responded to challenges.
In his remarks, Abbott touched on education, his anti-abortion stance, his work as attorney general to imprison child predators and the need for less government involvement in individuals’ lives. He also touted his defense of a religious monument in Texas and being a proponent of Second Amendment rights.
El Pato worker Thomas Arebalo, a 19-year-old not yet registered to vote, said he’d had no idea who Abbott was until the business began to prepare for his arrival. After Abbott’s speech, he said he would probably vote for him.
Richard Garcia, a 29-year-old Edinburg resident and registered voter, said he was there to show his support for Abbott. Before Abbott’s speech, Garcia, who was one of the first few to arrive, also said Republicans better represent Hispanic family and moral values.
“I agree with a lot that he stands for: our Constitutional rights, our Second Amendment rights,” he said.
The only other announced Republican gubernatorial candidate is former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken, according to The Associated Press. The election is in November 2014.