Tom Pauken, waging a longshot bid to be the GOP nominee for Texas governor, attacked front-runner Greg Abbott Thursday for joining forces with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to block a proposed airline merger.
Abbott, the attorney general of Texas, announced this week that he had filed a complaint in federal court to block a merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways. Abbott says combining the two companies would lead to increased ticket prices and reduced service, particularly in rural areas.
Pauken, the former chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, said he’s perplexed by Abbott’s move. He noted that Abbott has bragged about filing more than two dozen lawsuits against the federal government — one of his chief talking points as a candidate for governor.
Holder is particularly unpopular in the conservative grassroots.
“I think conservatives are shocked that he would join with Holder on a suit like this,” Pauken said. “It’s clearly not a conservative approach or policy position. And it’s broader than that. It’s a job killer.”
Pauken and Abbott are both scheduled to speak about the state’s opposition to the merger in separate interviews Thursday on the conservative Pratt on Texas radio show on Lubbock’s KFYO.
Pauken said the issue has put Abbott in the unusual position of being on the defensive. Abbott’s campaign declined to comment on Pauken’s attack and referred questions to the office of the attorney general.
Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said the merger was designed to protect free market principles. He noted that both airlines have reported profitable quarters and said they should be able to compete with each other as stand-alone companies. Strickland added that the purpose of anti-trust law is to “ensure the marketplace is where competition is encouraged."
Texas is joining Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Justice in opposing the merger. In its statement on the filing Tuesday, Abbott’s office said the action “was prompted by the state’s concerns about the potential for reduced airlines service to several of Texas’ smaller airports that are currently served exclusively by American Airlines and American Eagle flights.”
If the merger goes through, “some areas in rural Texas could see their travel options reduced as a result of the merger,” the statement said.