Part One of the history of Governor Greg Abbott’s rule over Texas.
If you’re familiar with Abbott or some of his antics over the last few years, revisiting the past may make you angry. However, suppose you don’t know about Greg Abbott’s long history of bigotry and oppression. In that case, I’ll revisit some of the critical moments that have turned Texas into the authoritarian state we all know today. In part one, we’ll go over his early years and some of his racist policies and actions since he was Governor. Then, you’ll have to check back for parts two and three to learn more about his war on women and the LGBTQ community.
In 1992, Greg Abbott ran his first political campaign. He was running for the 129th District Court in Harris County. It’s amazing to look back at what Abbott said in his first campaign and how different it is from the man he ultimately became.
He promised to eliminate politics and favoritism in the Courthouse. He said he would ensure fairness and justice and not a political agenda.
What a stark difference between the 1992 Greg Abbott and the 2022 Greg Abbott. The Greg Abbott of today openly and blatantly puts his political agenda above and beyond fairness and justice. And he does it with a smile.
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Perhaps back in those days, Greg Abbott was a decent human being.
He didn’t make any big splashes during his time as a District Judge, but he did get the attention of then-Governor George W. Bush in 1995. Bush appointed Abbott to the Supreme Court replacing Democrat Supreme Justice Jack Hightower. This made the Supreme Court of Texas 7 (R) – 2 (D). Bush later said he picked Abbott because he shared his Conservative philosophy about the judiciary.
During his time on the Supreme Court, Abbott served alongside of now-Senator John Cornyn and the current Chief Justice, Nathan Hecht.
Here’s where things start taking a turn. Abbott ran for re-election to the Supreme Court in 1996 for an unexpired term. It’s interesting because it’s also the first year the Texas Ethics Commission posts online for campaign donations and expenditures.
According to the 1996 reports, that year, Abbott pulled in a total of $8,355 donations. It makes you wonder, if in 1996, the thought crossed his mind that he would one day bring in millions per campaign cycle.
While running for re-election in 1996, he kept his same tone of fair and sensible guy.
Take his 1996 campaign ad, for example; he said that he worked to restrict judicial campaign contributions, and he believed that voters should not be denied the right to vote. Yes, Greg Abbott said that. The very same Greg Abbott who has spent the last decade pushing voter suppression.
This 1997 news clip sheds a little light on what began the snowball of corruption. According to the clip, Justice Greg Abbott took $27,000 from lawyers and businesses who argued cases at the Texas Supreme Court. This was only a year after he put out the campaign ad about restricting judicial campaign contributions.
According to the Texas Ethics Commission, in 1997, Abbott pulled in $446,660 from campaign contributions. A huge number compared to the $8,355 he received in 1996.
Allegations of corruption have long plagued the Texas Supreme Court.
In 1999, PBS Frontline aired a special called “Justice for Sale.” They specifically talk about the corruption in the Texas Supreme Court and how it has been a long-standing practice for SCOTEX judges to take money from businesses and lawyers who have cases with them.
A 2001 report from Catholic University Law Review concurred.
The Texas Supreme Court, ironic as it may be, is one of the most corrupt institutions in the State of Texas. This is where Greg Abbott catapulted his career as one of the most corrupt governors America has ever seen.
In 1998, Abbott pulled in $528,565 in campaign donations.
But what was he doing while sitting on the bench?
The Greg Abbott we all know today is an extremist who governs with overt racism and cruelty. He wasn’t always like that.
While during his term as a SCOTEX justice, he made decisions in favoring businesses in civil suits, but he rarely made the news. There were only a few cases in which Abbott made headlines in mostly because he wrote the majority opinion.
- 1996: The Texas Supreme Court ruled that adulatory was not protected by the Constitutional right to privacy. Abbott wrote, “privacy does not include the right to maintain a sexual relationship with someone else’s spouse.”
- 1998: A ruling from SCOTEX made firing injured workers easier. In 2022, Texas and Oklahoma are the only states in the U.S. that don’t require private employers to purchase workers’ compensation. In 1998, Texas was the only one. Abbott wrote about this decision: “The law is intended to apply to employees and employers who act under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.” So, if a company chooses not to obtain workers comp and a worker is injured, they can fire the worker.
- 2000: In Texas, an unmarried minor seeking abortion must have a signed affidavit from her parents to get the medical procedure. A 2000 law allowed a minor to bypass her parents by seeing a local judge. While the courts ultimately upheld this law, Greg Abbott dissented.
Hardly. Sure, these were Conservative decisions, but not like the looney-toons right we all know today.
However, during his stint as a Texas Supreme Court justice, hints of what we now know as ultimately evolved into extremism could be found.
In 1999, Abbott spoke at an event for the Christian Legal Society, a far-right legal organization tied to Alliance Defending Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Then in 2001, he gave a speech at the Mansfield Business Expo, where he spoke about the relationship between justice and businesses.
Even though there were small hits to what was coming over the next 20 years, no one could have ever guessed how bad things in Texas would get.
2001 put us on that path.
Abbott resigned his position on the Texas Supreme Court to seek higher office. However, it took him a while to decide what he would run for. First, he announced he would run for Land Commissioner, then there was speculation he would run for Lt. Governor. Finally, he settled on Attorney General.
During Greg Abbott’s first run for Governor, he raised well over $3 million. Spoiler alert: he won, and after that, Texas finally got to know the man he really was.
In 2002, there were 15,514,289 eligible voters. Yet only 4,553,979 people cast a vote that year of which Abbott won by 56%). That means Greg Abbott won his first state office seat, with only 16% of eligible voters wanting him there.
During his first few months as Attorney General, he operated much of the same way his predecessor John Cornyn did. No matter how you feel about Cornyn now, he was much milder while he was Attorney General. Sure, he made some bad decisions (like in the Tulia incident), but he was nothing like Abbott or Paxton.
In fact, in early 2003, Abbott was seen with Senator Rodney Ellis and spoke about cracking down on corporate fraud. The Baytown Sun reported on this in an article where they doubted Abbott’s sincerity, since he had received multiple donations from Enron before they collapsed.
But the sense of normalcy didn’t last long.
- 2003: A gay couple in Beaumont was seeking a divorce. The judge threw it out after Greg Abbott requested it, citing that Texas didn’t recognize same-sex marriages, so it wouldn’t grant a divorce.
- 2003: By the end of his first year as AG, Abbott empowered the open records division of the AG’s office with litigation capabilities. This gave governments the ability to deny open record requests, (personally, I’ve had dozens of FOIA requests denied by cities, counties, and the state, all citing the AG). It’s been a growing problem for journalists and activists for years in Texas. A situation started by Greg Abbott and worsened under Ken Paxton.
- 2003: Attorney General Greg Abbott supported a cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice. This was near the beginning of the Tort Reform era in Texas. The PAC, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, has reigned King of Texas Politics for nearly two decades. Billionaire business owners give this PAC millions every year to funnel to Republicans running for office in Texas. This group has used its political influence to strip away the legal rights of Texans for years. Why? Profit.
2003 was the year that Republicans stole the Texas House.
And Newly-elected Attorney General Greg Abbott helped them. It should be noted that before the redistricting took place, Abbott told Republicans it wasn’t a necessary thing to do. But, after he did it, they sided with him.
With Tom Delay at the helm, Republicans redrew the already redistricted maps in 2003 as a plan to gerrymander the next election and steal the Texas House. Democrats broke quorum and high-tailed it to Oklahoma to stop them.
Abbott helped them determine the legality of the redistricting maps, just as he did in 2011 and Paxton did in 2021 although he denied any impropriety.
When House Speaker Tom Craddick ordered DPS to arrest quorum-busting Democrats, a federal judge ruled DPS had no authority. Greg Abbott appealed that ruling.
But, Abbott’s stance on anti-voting wouldn’t solidify until later.
In 2004, he wrote an opinion about the voter suppression of Black college students in Waller County. In his opinion, he said that they have the right to vote. But, unfortunately in 2022, Black college students in Waller County are still fighting for the right to vote.
Then, there is Abbott’s war on education:
In 2004, Texas’ school finance system was ruled unconstitutional. (Spoiler alert, it’s the same school finance system in 2022.) Texas’ school finance system is the #1 reason property taxes keep going up each year and why we have some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
After that decision, Abbot filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. Abbott began fighting against free and fair public education from the moment he took office, a fight that he still carries on to this day.
We can all thank Greg Abbott for the fundamentalist take over of our State government.
This is, by far, the achievement that Greg Abbott is proud of most. To this day, he brags about it often. It is when he argued Texas’ right to display the 10 Commandments on Courthouse Grounds at the United States Supreme Court.
After winning that case, Abbott and other Texas Republicans continued to blur the line between church and state. If you listen to his campaign speeches in 2022, he talks a lot about Texas having “Judeo-Christian” values. This is a term coined by Steve Bannon in 2014 and repeated by most Republicans today.
Other Abbott decisions affecting Texans:
- 2005: Abbott issued an opinion stating that school districts di not lose their right to use corporal punishment.
- 2005: Abbott quietly closed the civil rights investigation into the Tulia incident.
Abbott continued to win elections, despite being unpopular.
In 2006, there were 16,636,742 eligible voters. Yet only 4,399,068 people cast a vote that year (Abbott won by 59%). That means Greg Abbott won in 2006 with only 15% of eligible voters voting for him.
His campaign brought it $5.6 million from the 2006 election, including $193,000 from Dr. James Leininger. Leininger is the founder of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and has been called the sugar daddy of the religious right.
In 2006, the future governor continued to perfect his role as a cartoon villain.
- 2006: Abbott argued at the Fifth Circuit of Court Appeals that Texas should execute mentally ill people on death row.
- 2006: Texas sued the Federal Government over Medicare clawback payments, which would have saved Texas $1.7 billion over 8-years. But, the gist of Abbott’s argument was “states’ rights.”
- 2006: When the Comptroller General opened an investigation on the Texas Residential Construction Commission, Abbott shut it down, a payback to one of his biggest donors, Bob Perry.
- 2007: Abbott was in the news again when he ordered an attorney to file an appeal six minutes before the execution of a man with an IQ of 64. The attorney had computer problems and didn’t file the appeal on time.
- 2007: Abbott sues labor unions in favor of right-to-work laws.
- 2008: When a Christian Conservative District Attorney got himself in hot water over sending racist and sexually explicit emails on his work computer, Greg Abbott refused to investigate.
- 2008: The Texas Attorney General’s office spent $1.4 million to prosecute 26 Democrats, mostly minorities, who walked absentee ballots to the mailbox for sick or elderly voters. The Texas Observer warned that year, “Vote by mail, go to jail.”
- 2008: This was when the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) scandal broke loose. While Abbott was bragging about being tough on sex offenders, his office ignored dozens of complaints that children were being molested at TYC.
Of course, all of that was before America elected its first Black president.
Depending on who you ask, many people see Obama’s election as the point when the Republicans took a hard-right turn.
Obama’s election gave us the Tea Party, a white supremacist movement that targeted the president, often because of the color of his skin. In the South, especially in Texas, the Tea Party grew its numbers becoming the GOP base, and leading Abbott to pander to the worst of society.
In 2009, Abbott fought to make sure “under God” stayed in the Pledge of Allegiance. He wrote an opinion against undocumented college students getting reduced tuition at in-state colleges. He continued the fight against allowing the divorces of gay couples in Texas.
In 2009, Abbott fought to make sure “under God” stayed in the Pledge of Allegiance, he wrote an opinion against undocumented college students getting a reduced tuition at in-state colleges, and he continued the fight against allowing the divorces of gay couples in Texas.
Greg Abbott once said, “I wake up in the morning, go to work, sue Obama, and then go home.”
Texas Republican culture wars are far from new, and during the Obama administration, they took center stage. Between 2009 and 2016, Texas sued the federal government 48 times. (All of the lawsuits are laid out in this Texas Tribune article.)
These lawsuits cost Texas taxpayers $5.9 million.
Here are some of the things we sued for:
- The voter ID law.
- Implementing redistricting, even when it violated the Voting Rights Act.
- To stop Obama’s plan to give Dreamers a path to citizenship.
- To stop EPA restrictions, even though the oil companies were poisoning Texans.
- Allowing Texans to have affordable access to healthcare.
- Blocking insurance benefits for same-sex couples.
- Blocking refugees from settling in Texas.
President Obama was a man who cared about the people of America and attempted to make everyone’s life better, but because of the GOP’s culture wars, they tried to block him at every turn.
And Abbott continued to win elections.
In 2010, which would be Abbott’s last term as Attorney General, there were 18,789,238 eligible voters. Yet only 4,979,870 people cast a vote that year (Abbott won by 64%). That means Greg Abbott won in 2010, with only 16% of eligible voters voting for him.
Abbott’s campaign raised $9.2 million for the 2010 election.
Whether he was lying about how child support was collected or suing to stop an offshore drilling ban, it was obvious that Abbott only worked for big oil and the fundamentalist base while ignoring the rights and needs of everyday Texans.
- 2009: Another inmate on death row was executed with an IQ under 70. Abbott argued in favor of killing him, anyway.
- 2009: When school district police used excessive force on children and hid it from parents, Abbott wrote an opinion, siding with the school police.
- 2010: When a judge ruled that Texas’ death penalty process was unconstitutional, Abbott lashed out at that decision. Note, to date. The Innocence Project has overturned more wrongfully convicted people in Texas than in other states.
In the 2011 redistricting case, Shannon Perez v. the State of Texas, Abbott put his racism on full display.
This 2011 case was important for many reasons, but it was when Greg Abbott admitted that the GOP intentionally disenfranchises Black voters. They were aware of it, knew what they were doing, and did it anyway.
Greg Abbott has a long history of voter suppression, from repetitive voter rolls purges to an ID law that disenfranchised 600,000 voters and racial gerrymandering. Abbott’s legacy of voter suppression started in 2002 and hasn’t stopped since.
It’s always been about race, proven in 2014 when Abbott said he wouldn’t defend an interracial marriage ban.
Of course, most of Abbott’s racism has targeted asylum seekers coming to the ports of entry at the Texas borders. A situation he’s been lying about as far back as 2014. The same year he called the Rio Grande Valley a “third-world region.“
When Abbott ran for governor in 2014, he ran on a platform of racism and anti-equality.
Once Greg Abbott became the governor of Texas, his evolution into becoming the monster he is today was nearly complete.
In 2014, which would be Abbott’s first term as Governor, there were 18,915,297 eligible voters. Yet only 4,727,208 people cast a vote that year (Abbott won by 59%). That means Greg Abbott won in 2014, with only 14% of eligible voters voting for him.
In a state where white people are the minority since Abbott moved into the Governor’s mansion, race and racism have been at the forefront of nearly every move he made.
- 2014: Ted Nugent called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” so Abbott took Nugent on the campaign trail with him.
- 2014: When a Republican candidate for judge spoke about giving food stamp money to Black voters on election day to keep them away from the polls, Abbott refused to denounce him.
- 2015: There was a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to “protect the border” from children.
- 2015: Greg Abbott took campaign money from the racist organization, U.S. Council of Conservative Citizens. This is the same group Dylann Roof wrote in his manifesto about who he claimed helped guide him through his readings on why blacks were bad for America, and they needed to go.
- 2015: He celebrated the arrest of a Latina seeking healthcare.
- 2015: Abbott proclaimed February 2, Chris Kyle day. Kyle was a racist who called the women and children he murdered “savages.”
- 2016: The governor went on TV and advocated for racial profiling.
- 2016: Although Donald Trump ran a racist campaign, Abbott was a strong supporter since the beginning.
- 2017: Five years ago, the Dallas News deemed Governor Abbott as having the most racist, bigoted record in the country.
- 2017: Abbott signed the anti-sanctuary law, putting the lives and safety of migrants at risk, and raising the crime rates.
Yes, there’s more.
- 2017: Abbott spoke out in favor of keeping all of the Jim Crow-era Confederate statues around Texas in place.
- 2018: As Trump’s racist immigration policies set place in Texas and screaming children were being torn from their parent’s arms, the man who lectures us about morals and values silently condoned this inhumanity.
- 2019: Greg Abbott’s invasion rhetoric has been directly linked to the massacre in El Paso, but even when confronted with it, he refused to walk it back.
- 2020: Abbott proposed making donations to civil rights organizations a felony if that organization participated in protest.
- 2020: Abbott came to the defense of a racist Texas judge on Twitter.
- 2021: Staffers of Greg Abbott had been sending racist emails, emails which were later leaked.
- 2021: This is the year Abbott began the racist Operation Lone Star. Although, as it turned out, almost everything Abbott has said about the border has been a lie.
- 2021: Abbott championed the racist voter suppression bills that came out of the Texas Legislature.
On top of that, Abbott has a long history of supporting racist police practices.
For women and the LGBTQ+ community in Texas, Abbott’s reign has been a nightmare.
In 2018, the last time Abbott ran for Governor, there were 19,900,980 eligible voters. Yet only 8,371,655 people cast a vote that year (Abbott won by 55%). That means Greg Abbott won in 2018, with only 23% of eligible voters voting for him.
If only 35% of eligible voters showed up to vote against Greg Abbott this year, we could get him out of office.
As long as Abbott is at the helm of Texas politics, no one is safe.
Vote often, vote early, and vote like your life depends on it.