“Texas is the kind of state where a young man can have his life broken in half and still rise up and be governor of this great state. That is the (breed) of opportunity that the State of Texas provides,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday, sharing the successes of the Lone Star State and Republican issues as he addressed a roomful of constituents at the annual Columbus Day dinner, hosted by the Harrison County Republican Women.
The annual dinner, held at Bear Creek Smokehouse, is a fundraiser that benefits the local Republican Women’s Carolyn Abney Scholarship Fund. Describing Abbott as a distinguished man, Harrison County Sheriff Brandon “BJ” Fletcher, who served as master’s of ceremonies, expressed what an honor it was to have the governor grace the county with his presence.
“This man could’ve been anywhere tonight, but he’s right here in Harrison County with us because he cares about everybody in the state, not just Austin, Texas,” said Fletcher. “He came here to talk to us tonight.”
Greeting the crowd with a hearty “Howdy, Harrison County,” Abbott said he was glad to be back home in East Texas where he grew up — right next door in Gregg County. He thanked the Republican Women and the group’s president Donna Philyaw for the invitation.
“I also want to thank the Republican Women of Harrison County... for what you all did for me and the last time I ran for governor,” he said. “Not only did you give me more votes than any other contested candidate on the ballot in 2018, you gave me more votes than any governor has ever received in Harrison County.
“I know that the tireless work that the Republican Women of Harrison County put in, and I could not thank you enough for everything that you’ve done,” he said.
The governor gave a few other acknowledgements, including a thanks to State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.
“(Rep. Paddie) has been an incredible public servant, and knowing the amount of time and attention and detail that he went into, to ensure that the Texas power grid would never fail again, thank you Chris Paddie for everything that you do,” Abbott said, to a rousing applause.
The governor also acknowledged the family of Kari Hunt Dunn, who pushed for Kari’s Law in memory of a 31-year-old woman who was fatally stabbed in December 2013 by her estranged husband in a hotel room in Marshall. The couple’s oldest daughter, then age 9, attempted to dial 911 four times during the struggle but was unsuccessful because she didn’t realize she had to first dial an access number or an extra “9” in order to reach an outside line.
As a result, Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, launched an online petition that addressed and pushed for the proposed “Kari’s Law” to ensure any person needing emergency assistance at any business in the nation can easily dial 911 and connect automatically to a dispatcher without obstacles or delays.
“Chris also was involved in (the) law that’s unique to this particular region, but profound across the entire state of Texas,” said Abbott. Abbott said Kari's relatives are the people with a passion behind the law.
“I want to thank you all for showing the way Texas law really works, it’s empowered by people who want to (inspire) change with leadership from their local elected officials,” said Abbott.
Kicking off the evening, Abbott shared how a newcomer to Texas impressed him with her reasoning from moving to Texas from Georgia.
“She said she was concerned Georgia was turning blue and she wanted to move to a red state,” he said.
Abbott said he assures her and everyone in the audience that Republicans are going to win Texas in 2022.
“Campaigning has never been easier before now, because it used to be we were running against Democrats, and then they were liberals and then they were progressives and now they tell you who they really are. They are socialists, they are communists, they are Marxists, they are going to lose in 2022,” the governor said to applause.
Noting some successful efforts under his leadership and during the special session, Abbott said he was able to pass a critical race theory law that banned the teaching of critical race theory that he says works to divide the country instead of unite.
“I wanted to see a ban on critical race theory from the youngest grade to the end of high school on every single subject taught in our high school, so I put it on the special session agenda, and during that special session we passed it and I signed it and now critical race theory is banned from teaching in any public school,” he said.
Speaking of the economic health of the state, Abbott said Texas is the perfect example of how capitalism works.
“Let me give you an example, just a few months ago, Texas was ranked by CEOs, the people who run businesses, as the No. 1 state in the United States for doing business. The amazing thing about it, however, was it was the 17th year in a row that Texas has been ranked No. 1 in the United States,” he pointed out.
Additionally, he said the state was awarded the Governor’s Cup, which is a prestigious award given annually to a state that ranks first for the most new economic development projects.
“That’s bringing in new businesses that’s relocating from some other state or businesses here that are expanding; and it leads to more jobs, it leads to more capital investment,” said Abbott. “And Texas received the award this past year as the No. 1 state in the United States for the most economic development. We’ve done so good, we’ve won it every year that I have been governor of Texas. With the economy performing so well, we’re even climbing internationally.”
Gov. Abbott said the state did face challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, but like his own personal story of rising above paralysis, Texas also rose above its challenges.
“The story I talk about all the time, about me being in a wheelchair and rising above that, I talk about overcoming our challenges,” he said, sharing how a large tree fell on him, at age 26 while jogging. The tree crushed his vertebrae, leaving him permanently paralyzed.
“My point is our lives are defined not by how we’re challenged but how we respond to those challenges, and that’s what Texas did during the time of COVID, because even during the time of COVID we excelled economically,” said Abbott. “Before COVID, Texas, had it been its own country, would’ve had the 10th largest economy in the entire world. That’s no longer true, because as we gather tonight Texas now has the 9th largest economy in the whole world. We have a larger economy than Brazil, our neighboring countries Mexico and Canada, we have a larger economy than Australia, and Texas even has a larger economy than Russia — and that makes me more powerful than Putin.”
“We constantly look for ways that we can improve the economy for all of you, and we did that this past session,” he said. “We did something that we could only dream that Washington, D.C. could do. We passed a balanced budget with absolutely no new taxes, leaving billions of dollars in our savings account. That is how you govern a state in the United States of America.”
Abbott said every session, since he’s been governor, the legislature has cut property taxes, including in this regular session.
“We’re working on a plan as we speak in this special session, right now to reduce your property taxes even more so you get to keep more of your hard-earned money,” he said.
Speaking on more current events, the governor noted that even on Monday, the same day of the occasion, he issued an executive order that banned anyone from being forced to be vaccinated.
“Every place I go, kind of the most meaningful thing I hear is the border and the second thing is I’ve been hearing people crying about losing their job or that they were about to lose their job, no ability to pay their bills, kids at home who needed to have food put on their table, and the reason they were going to lose their job is because they were going to be forced to make a choice between either getting a vaccine or not going to work,” he shared. “Today I said I’m not going to force you to make that choice. I issued an executive order saying that nobody in the State of Texas can be subject to vaccination mandates.”
The governor said getting the vaccine should be a choice.
“There are people who are leery of it, and you have so many other options,” he said.
With that said, he said he’s acquired enough monoclonal antibody therapeutic drugs, the same medicine he took during his COVID bout, to give to anyone that needs it.
“We have these (Regeneron’s) monoclonal antibody therapeutic drugs that we are distributing across the entire state of Texas. If you get sick with COVID, you take this drug and you get over COVID real quick. I got COVID, you may recall, I took this drug, I got over it real quick. We were using it so effectively in Texas and Florida, Biden said one week he was increasing the amount of these drugs by 50 percent, a week later, he cut the supplies to Texas and to Florida. Just leave it to Texas ingenuity. We said we’re going to buy our own supplies of these monoclonal antibody therapeutic drugs. And we got them. Anybody who needs access to these drugs is going to get them because I have an endless supplies of these drugs that I got on my own without the federal government’s help,” he said. “That’s what you call being free from mandates. No vaccine mandates, no mask mandates, no shutdown orders, nothing but freedom for the future in the Lone Star state.”
Speaking of freedoms, Abbott said freedom is a concept, which is why the state passed a law prohibiting any individual at any level of government from closing down churches in Texas, like what happened during the pandemic. He said freedom of religion shouldn’t be encroached upon.
Additionally, “I signed something like seven laws protecting your Second Amendment rights, including making Texas a Constitutional Carry state, making Texas a second amendment sanctuary state so (President) Joe Biden cannot come to Texas and get your guns,” he shared.
Speaking on the state’s efforts to secure the border wall, Abbott noted that he has signed two bills for border security — one during the regular session and one during the special session.
“Combined, we are using $3 billion of Texas taxpayer money to do the federal government’s job to secure our border,” he said.
“Let me tell you some of the things it’s going toward, one is the addition of thousands upon thousands of National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety officers at the border. It includes creating an entirely new program where we are arresting and jailing people who come across the border illegally and trespassing in the Lone Star state,” he explained. “They’re going to a jail cell in south Texas.”
The biggest announcement he shared is that Texas is building its own border wall to secure our border.
“This is a large-scale construction project,” said Abbott, noting the state has hired a project manager. “We’re having a meeting later on this week to get updated on it, but I think they’re going to tell me that the contractors will be decided upon by the end of this month.”
“The manager in charge of Texas Facilities Commission told me that with the land we already have and the speed they’re working, don’t be surprised if you see some of the Texas border wall go up before the end of this calendar year. We will get that border wall going,” he said.
Ending his speech, Abbott rallied for support for the 2022 election.
“There are people in this state who hate America the way that it is, people in this state who despise Texas the way that it is. One of those people is Beto O’Rourke, who is going to be running for governor against me,” said Abbott. “We cannot allow Texas to go down the pathway of Marxism, socialism — We cannot allow the forces of those that want to reshape Texas and the United States of America in their vision of socialism and Marxism.”