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Y'all-itics: The political rise of Greg Abbott

How much do Texans know about their 48th Governor?

DALLAS — Greg Abbott was first elected Governor in 2014, after having served as Attorney General for three terms before that. And he was a Texas Supreme Court Justice from 1996 to 2001.

But after nearly 30 years in the public eye, how much do we really know about Texas' 48th Governor?

It’s the exact question veteran Texas journalist Mimi Swartz asked in her May cover story for Texas Monthly.

“I didn’t understand how someone goes from, how someone who is ostensibly very smart, I was told at every turn he was very smart, but how you move from being a George Bush Republican, in a way, to being a Donald Trump Republican, which is the story of a lot of Republicans today. But I think people are very surprised Greg Abbott went that way,” Swartz said on the most recent episode of Y’all-itics.

Mimi Swartz is an author and executive editor at Texas Monthly, where she’s been for nearly 30 years. She grew up in San Antonio and now lives in Houston, so politically, she knows Texas.

She told WFAA she realized one day that nobody had ever written a story asking “who is this guy” as it relates to Gov. Abbott. Swartz said she knew who the previous three Governors before Abbott were and what they stood for.

Ann Richards, Swartz said, was known for providing hope and uplifting everyone in the state. George W. Bush is remembered for working across the aisle in Texas. And Rick Perry had a well-established reputation as a business-friendly Governor. But Gov. Abbott, Swartz said, is a cypher.

“I don’t see any of those things with Abbott. I don’t see a vision for where we want to go. He’s been asked that question. And he’ll just say, 'well, I want to make Texas great,'” said the journalist. “But again, like you said, he doesn’t want to go much further than that because he’s so cautious. He doesn’t want to be pinned down on anything.”

In her May cover story for Texas Monthly, Swartz examined Abbott’s early life, including the tragedies he faced (one struck soon after he moved to Duncanville when he was teenager), and she explores how that past is shaping the Governor’s political future.

Swartz said she spent months working on the article and many chose not to go on-the-record because they were afraid. And she told WFAA that fear has become dangerous and debilitating for politics in Texas.

“People were really afraid of reprisals. People in government were afraid of losing programs that were important to them, being put on an ice floe and then people who had gotten appointments were really they would lose their appointment. Dan Patrick, you might think, is a master of this. But I think Abbott is, he’s right up there with him,” she said.

And speaking of the Lieutenant Governor, Swartz also discussed the relationship between Dan Patrick and Gov. Abbott.

“I think the feud between Patrick and Abbott is a fabulous story because they just never miss a chance to stick it to each other. Patrick is a master at that. He’s never going to stop because it’s to his advantage. He’s the one punching up,” said Swartz.

It’s a fascinating look at Texas’ 48th Governor, so be sure to listen to our latest episode of Y’all-itics to learn more and hear about all of the interesting morsels Swartz discovered. 


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