Just over 50 days remain until the March 1 Republican primary, but the incumbent governor has been absent from the campaign trail. With well-funded opponents traveling the state and launching ad campaigns, GOP activists are wondering why Greg Abbott is ignoring their forums and questions.
Throughout the fall and now heading into the primary’s final stretch, Gov. Abbott has been absent from every single GOP and conservative candidate forum and refusing to participate in debates.
For example, forums scheduled this month by groups like the True Texas Project and the Republican Party of Brazos County feature the various candidates for governor – with the glaring exception of Mr. Abbott.
“There’s a general rule of thumb for incumbents during election season: Lay low and keep your mouth shut. That’s why they rarely show at candidate forums,” said True Texas Project leader Julie McCarty. “But what does that say about how they view their role in a representative government? And what does it tell us about their desire for accountability? To me it says, ‘I will do what I want, and you need to just shut up and vote for me.’ Sadly, low-info voters often submit without a fight. That is changing, but maybe Abbott hasn’t clued in.”
Gov. Abbott’s campaign staff did not respond to questions about his attendance at such forums.
One of Abbott’s primary challengers is the former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, Lt. Col. Allen West. He said voters should be clear on the message Abbott is sending.
“Government exists and is established by the consent of the governed. Public servants are exactly that, servants of the public, the people. Roman Statesman Marcus Tulius Cicero would refer to Governor Abbott’s absence from primary forums as the arrogance of officialdom,” said West. “It appears that Governor Abbott feels it is beneath him to stand before Republican voters in primary forums. The logical deduction and subsequent decision for Republican primary voters should be it’s beneath them to vote for Governor Abbott.”
Former State Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas businessman in the GOP race, said the governor’s attitude is “indicative of how he perceives the Texas Republican Party.”
“He sees all this as beneath him. He’s never had to be accountable to the Republican Party of Texas, and he’s petrified,” said Huffines. “He’s going to have to be accountable to the Republicans of Texas, and that’s difficult if you’re a RINO.”
The governor’s unwillingness to join in the forums was described as “suspect” by media personality Chad Prather, another Abbott challenger.
“In my opinion, it’s quite dishonorable, and it certainly doesn’t speak well of his confidence in the job that he’s done,” said Prather. “Why won’t you show up to defend your office? Millions of Texans are dissatisfied with Greg Abbott‘s job performance, and they are taking seriously these primary contenders to his office. Why doesn’t Greg Abbott take it seriously? These are the actions of a tyrant who has no fear of Texas citizens, and he certainly doesn’t care about their priorities as proven repeatedly. Weakness does not belong at the helm of Texas leadership.”
The influential Grassroots America – We The People organization based in Tyler didn’t even opt to invite Abbott to what they bill as a “job interview” on January 21. GAWTP’s leader JoAnn Fleming describes the governor as having “disqualified himself by his own actions” when shutting down the state’s economy in 2020.
“We laid that out in June in our anti-endorsement of Abbott,” said Fleming. “We cannot trust him with our liberty. He was not invited to the forum because of his disqualifying record that continues today. … Grassroots America does not consider Abbott eligible for rehire.”
NOTE: This corrects an earlier version in which we misstated the date for the GAWTP interview. We apologize for the confusion.