Tribpedia: Greg Abbott

On July 14, 2013, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced his candidacy for governor of Texas, aiming to replace Gov. Rick Perry, who announced that his current term would be his last. 

Now serving his third term as attorney general, Abbott has been the state’s top lawyer longer than anyone in state history. He is only the second Republican since Reconstruction to hold the post. First elected in 2002, he has won decisively in every election since. His tenure has been marked by high profile cases, often national — and even international — in scope.

Abbott was born in Wichita Falls on Nov. 13, 1957. He was raised in the East Texas town of Longview, and graduated from high school in Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas. He received his undergraduate degree in finance from UT-Austin and his law degree from Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. He married his wife Cecilia in 1982. Their daughter Audrey was born in 1997, adopted by the Abbotts in 1998.

On July 14, 1984, Abbott, 26, was struck by a storm-weakened oak tree while jogging in the River Oaks section of Houston. The accident left him partially paralyzed, and he has used a wheelchair ever since. He sued the property owner, a prominent divorce attorney, who drew in his arborist; together, they settled. Details of the settlement later leaked to the press showed that Abbott will eventually get upwards of $10 million. In August 2013, Abbott discussed the settlement with The Texas Tribune, and his campaign turned over the court documents. Analysis by the Tribune shows that under the terms of the settlement, a combination of periodic lump-sum and monthly payments, Abbott may indeed receive as much as was speculated — if he lives long enough. As it now stands, Abbott has received roughly half of all he may eventually receive — $5.8 million by the end of 2013.

After passing the Texas Bar exam, Abbott entered private legal practice. His political career began in 1993 with a three-year term as a trial judge on the 129th District Court. In 1995, then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. He was re-elected twice, in 1996 for a two-year term, and in 1998 for a six-year term.

In 2001, Abbott resigned from the court to seek the open state attorney general’s seat, vacated by now-U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. In the 2002 general election, he defeated former Austin mayor (and now state Sen.) Kirk Watson by almost 800,000 votes. In 2006, he beat Democratic opponent David Van Os (whom he also faced and defeated in the 1998 Supreme Court race) by almost a million votes. In 2010, he trounced Democrat Barbara Ann Radnowsky, winning by a margin of  1,495,205 votes.

As state attorney general, Abbott has built a reputation as a staunch conservative and an aggressive litigator. In March 2005, he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Van Orden v. Perry, arguing that a monument to the Ten Commandments on the north grounds of the state Capitol should be allowed to remain in place. The justices ruled in his favor in a 5-4 vote. Later that year, Abbott sued Sony/BMG on behalf of Texas — the first state to file suit — for installing copy-protection measures on some of its compact discs, which left consumers’ computers open to spyware.  

At the state level, Abbott has made the protection of children a priority, going after deadbeat parents for child support and setting up a cyber crimes unit with an emphasis on child pornography. He has also been vigorous in prosecuting businesses for deceptive practices and price-gouging. He has been an outspoken proponent of tort reform, which, in light of his own personal injury case, has raised accusations of hypocrisy. It’s a charge Abbott rejects, saying he’s against frivolous lawsuits and that he would still be able to pursue his own remedies under current law.

Abbott has shown up repeatedly on the national radar, suing the federal government 27 times since 2010 over issues ranging from Environmental Protection Agency regulations to the Women’s Health Program. Critics have accused Abbott of political posturing — he sued the U.S. only three times during the Bush administration — but he denies the charge, accusing Washington of unprecedented overreach.

As for his future ambitions, Abbott was widely considered to be a likely successor to Perry. On July 8, 2013, when Perry announced he wasn't going to seek a fourth term, Abbott, who had reported a hefty campaign war chest of $18 million at the beginning of the year, was identified as the leading contender to succeed Perry, even before he announced his candidacy.

Those ambitions were confirmed – on the 29th anniversary of his accident  when Abbott formally launched his gubernatorial campaign in downtown San Antonio. In his speech, he outlined his  conservative credentials. Abbott told his audience he had sued the federal government 27 times, mentioning his stand against Obamacare. He touted his constitutional knowledge, saying the “2nd Amendment & the 10th Amendment are not suggestions: they are guaranteed rights,” going on to enumerate his accomplishments as attorney general.

Images

Gov. Greg Abbott speaking on Sept. 19 at a conference hosted by the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Workforce Commission.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to supporters of Congressman Will Hurd (background) during a Saturday afternoon appearance at Hurd's campaign headquarters in San Antonio.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a Rotary Club of San Antonio luncheon, Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2016, in San Antonio. Gov. Greg Abbott at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during a visit to Israel on Jan. 18, 2016. Gov. Greg Abbott meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a visit to Israel on Jan. 18, 2016. Gov. Greg Abbott is on a three-day visit to Cuba. Gov. Greg Abbott speaks with reporters before a speech Friday in Lubbock. Abbott said he plans to release a list of issues he would like Republican primary voters to focus on next year. Gov. Greg Abbott spoke to a crowd at the Cowboy Chicken restaurant in McAllen, Texas, on Sept. 16, 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott tries out an Oculus Rift virtual reality system at AMD's Austin office after signing a bill cutting the business franchise tax rate. Gov. Greg Abbott in Pflugerville, Texas, for signing of open-carry bill on June 13, 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott in Pflugerville, Texas, for signing of open-carry bill on June 13, 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott signs an open-carry bill passed by the state Legislature at Red’s Indoor Range, a gun store and shooting range in Pflugerville, Texas, on June 13, 2015. Governor Greg Abbott speaks to media at the Wimberley Community Center a day after the area suffered from devastating floods. (L-R) State House Speaker Joe Straus, Governor Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick on May 21, 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott tours Amazon's new distribution center Friday outside San Antonio. The hub in Schertz is one of three in Texas. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right) hold a news conference Saturday in Houston. Abbott and Walker, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, discussed their recent tour of the U.S.-Mexico border. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (left) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right) hold a news conference Saturday in Houston. Abbott and Walker, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, discussed their recent tour of the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tour the U.S.-Mexico border Friday. Walker is a likely 2016 presidential candidate. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA's "Inside Texas Politics" on Feb. 8y, 2014. Abbott, his daughter Audrey and his wife, Cecilia, wave to folks at the inaugural parade. Plenty of cowboy hats were in evidence at the inaugural parade. Onlookers wave and take pictures as the inaugural parade makes its way toward the Capitol. After Abbott and Patrick were sworn in, barbecue — and lots of it — was served on the Capitol's West Lawn. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht swears in Greg Abbott as the 48th governor of Texas. Abbott, his wife, Cecilia, and their daughter, Audrey, at the inauguration. Gov. Greg Abbott speaks from the specially-constructed inauguration podium on Jan. 20, 2015. Gov. Greg Abbott delivers his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2015. A view of the podium before Abbott and Patrick were sworn in. A huge lunchtime barbecue — 4 tons of brisket, for starters — was served as part of the inauguration festivities. Shown the day before Abbott and Patrick were inaugurated, an ocean of seats surrounded the podium. Congress Avenue, south of the Capitol, is prepared for inaugural festivities on Monday. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's Inside Texas Politics on Jan. 4, 2015. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on Sept. 21, 2014. Governor- and Lieutenant Governor-elect Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick will be inaugurated into office on Jan. 20, 2015. Gov-elect Greg Abbott at an executive aviation terminal on election eve. The Governor's Mansion, Austin, Texas. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on Nov. 2, 2014. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on Oct. 26, 2014. Screenshot taken from Wendy Davis campaign ad that first aired on Oct. 10, 2014. Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate for Governor, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, speaks during a Republican women's lunch in Austin on October 8th, 2014.During the luncheon, Carly Fiorina a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard also addressed said remarks on October 8, 2014. The second and final gubernatorial debate between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, was held in Dallas on Sept. 30. The second and final gubernatorial debate between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, was held in Dallas on Tuesday. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on Sept. 21, 2014. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott answers questions during the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate with Texas State Senator Wendy Davis Friday September 19, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. The debate was the first of two scheduled before the November election. 
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez pool) State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, at a gubernatorial debate in Edinburg on Sept. 19, 2014. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott answer questions during the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate Friday September 19, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. The debate was the first of two scheduled before the November election. 
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez pool) Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott answers questions during the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate withTexas State Senator Wendy Davis Friday September 19, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. The debate was the first of two scheduled before the November election. 
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez pool) Emily Pena, left, Veena Singh, Madhu Singh and Ameet Singh applaud at the end of the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate as they watch from an auditorium Friday September 19, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. The debate was the first of two scheduled before the November election. 
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Nathan Lambrecht, pool) Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott answers a question during a Sept. 19, 2014, gubernatorial debate with state Sen. Wendy Davis. The debate, held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, was the first of two scheduled before the November  general election. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott shake hands before the Rio Grande Valley Gubernatorial Debate Friday September 19, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. The debate was the first of two scheduled before the November election. 
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Joel Martinez, pool) State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, at a gubernatorial debate in Edinburg on Sept. 19, 2014. State Sen. Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott before their debate at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in Edinburg on Sept. 19, 2014. GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott speaking at the RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas on August 9, 2014. Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on WFAA-TV's "Inside Texas Politics" on May 25, 2014. Republican candidate for governor Greg Abbott and rock musician Ted Nugent at a get-out-the-vote rally in Denton, Texas on Feb. 18. 2014. Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott talked about border security, criminal justice and other issues during his "Securing Texans" address in Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2014. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaking before a NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting at the Concordia Lutheran Church in Bedford TX. Abbott is seeking to become the next governor of Texas. Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott speaks at a NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting at Concordia Lutheran Church in Bedford. Texas attorney general and candidate for governor of Texas Greg Abbott during a campaign stop in San Marcos, Texas on October 12th, 2013. Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott files to run for  governor on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas. At separate events, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filed for governor in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott (l.) and Wendy Davis (r.). July 17, 2013: Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott speaks to supporters at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, Texas. Greg Abbott speaking to supporters at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock on July 17, 2013. Greg Abbott at a rally in Wichita Falls on July 16, 2013. Greg Abbott at a campaign event at the Ben Franklin Apothecary in Duncanville on July 16, 2013. Greg Abbott at a campaign stop after announcing his run for governor. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott greets crowds in San Antonio shortly after announcing his plans to run for governor of Texas. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks with a reporter for Univision on July 16, 2013, during a gubernatorial campaign event at El Pato restaurant in McAllen. Greg Abbott announces his run for governor at the La Villita Historic Arts District in downtown San Antonio on July 14, 2013.

Sign Up for The Brief

Our daily news summary