AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott was sworn in Tuesday for a third term as the highest public official in the Lone Star State, pledging to keep the state a promised land for conservatives fleeing liberal states.
“Our state is so grand, we now have more than 30 million people who call Texas home,” Abbott said in his inaugural speech. “People from across America that are fleeing the oppression of high taxes, red tape and burdensome regulations in other states and coming to Texas where freedom and fortune are found around every corner.”
It was an optimistic speech and one that seemed geared toward a national audience. Observers have speculated about whether Abbott might be positioning himself for a presidential run in 2024, though the governor himself has not given an indication of his future political plans.
If he does end up campaigning for the White House, Abbott faces tougher headwinds than he did just two years ago, as growing partisanship in Texas and beyond has often put him in an awkward position.
From his handling of the coronavirus pandemic to social issues like abortion, Abbott during his last term was frequently forced to choose between placating his base and appealing to more moderate or left-leaning Texans. Other factors, including the deadly winter blackouts of February 2021, contributed to these choppy political waters.
Speaking for over 20 minutes at the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, Abbott laid out his plan for the current legislative session and his next four years as governor to a crowd of lawmakers and supporters. Parts of that plan include continuing his efforts to address the surge of migrants crossing over the southern border into the state.
The governor applauded the thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety officers as well as both Texas and National Guard troops he has deployed as a part of his border security initiative, Operation Lone Star.
In addition, Abbott has been using taxpayer dollars to bus migrants awaiting their day in court from Texas border communities to liberal cities including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. All told, Abbott has spent more than $4 billion on border-related projects.
During his address, Abbott placed blame for the surge in migrants at the feet of President Joe Biden and his administration.
“With the Biden administration missing in action, Texas is using every tool to protect our state, ” he said.
Just last week, Abbott met with Biden in El Paso to tour the border. While talking to reporters, Abbott said the federal government should reimburse the state of Texas for its border security initiatives.
Culture war issues also surfaced during Abbott’s remarks Tuesday. While applauding the work of Texas educators, the governor raised the issue of indoctrination in classrooms.
“Texas is the knowledge capital of America, but we must remember this: our schools are for education, not indoctrination,” he said to much applause.
While running for reelection, Abbott campaigned on establishing a “parental bill of rights” to give parents more influence over their child's education and what they are exposed to. Several lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten up to the eighth grade.
“I was really honed in on [the governor’s] comments regarding parental rights,” said Carisa Lopez, senior political director at the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ, religious and reproductive freedom.
Lopez said that the governor’s commitment to giving parents more freedom in the classroom is hypocritical because it “only applies to those who agree with him.” If the reforms Abbott has thrown his support behind are enacted, Lopez believes they would do more to further alienate LGBTQ Texans, especially the parents of children who are transgender.