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Gov. Abbott Begins Re-Election Bid As Democratic Candidate Emerges

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Governor Greg Abbott launched his re-election campaign in San Antonio Friday, the same city he kicked-off his first campaign four years ago.

He told the crowd, "To keep Texas the best state in the United States, I'm running for re-election for Governor of the great state of Texas."

Abbott says after fulfilling his promise to lower business taxes, ban sanctuary cities, build more roads, and securing the border, he's now focused on keeping people from being taxed out of their homes. "I'm running for Governor to lower your property taxes and to prevent government from raising them without first getting your approval."

Abbott says other priorities are to reform the way the state pays for public schools, and to keep Texas as conservative as possible. "I will not allow big government policies to lead Texas down the wrong path."

His campaign event comes days before the Texas Legislature reconvenes in a special session Abbott called.

SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson says Abbott is a sure bet for re-election. "He is as close to a lock as you can be. He's had a very strong, largely uncontroversial tenure in office so far."

Wilson says it's also difficult for Democrats to win statewide in Texas.

But Democrat Jeffrey Payne of Dallas says he's going to try. "I love Dallas, and I love Texas."

Jeffrey Payne
Jeffrey Payne (CBS 11)

Hours before Abbott's announcement, Payne filed his paperwork at the Secretary of State's Office in Austin. He's a political newcomer who owns five small businesses, and says he will loan his campaign $2.5 million.

Payne says the state is too divided on the issues, and that he's running to bring Texans together. "If we don't have compromise, and compassion for one another, we're never going to reach a resolution, and we're just going to keep talking about it and kicking the can down the road."

He says he's in a same-sex marriage, but doesn't believe people will focus on that -- and instead, thinks they will consider whether he can solve the state's problems.

Payne says the state doesn't fund education adequately and believes the state should expand Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, and he also opposes the new state law banning sanctuary cities.

While he supports increasing border security, he says those who are in the U.S. illegally should be placed on a path to citizenship.

Payne says he had previously told the Texas Democratic Party he was thinking about running for governor, but hadn't notified party leaders as of midday Friday.

A party spokesman declined comment about his candidacy.

But in an email Wednesday, Democratic Party Communications Director Tariq Thowfeek said, "The Texas Democratic Party is talking to a number of great leaders, and an announcement will come at the appropriate time. These Texans come from diverse backgrounds with proven track records of leadership, and an unwavering commitment to our shared Democratic values."

When asked how he would convince millions of Texans to vote for someone they may never have heard of, Payne said, "For the next 16 months, it's going to be pressing the flesh and getting out there."

Wilson says the Texas Democratic Party will find others who have political experience to run against Abbott. "Whoever's going to be the Democratic nominee, is going to be someone either who is a celebrity or someone with a significant record."

Payne says he's unfazed.

He says he's planning to launch his campaign in Dallas in early October, then reach out to voters in a statewide bus tour. "It's not daunting to me. I welcome a challenge if someone were to run, but I also believe politics was never meant to be a career."

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