SAN ANTONIO -- It began with all the music and fanfare of a rock concert. An excited Republican crowd awaited the introduction of Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-Texas) by his teen-aged daughter Audrey.
"I know that my dad will be a great leader just like he has been a great dad," said Audrey Abbott. "He will Take care of your family just like he has taken care of mine."
Confined to a wheelchair since the age of 26, Abbott joked about the jogging accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down and required two steel rods to be inserted in his back.
"You know too often you hear politicians get up and talk about a spine of steel," said Abbott. "I actually have one, and I will use my steel spine to fight for you and for Texas families every Single day!"
The chosen location for the announcement held special significance for Abbott, a short distance from where he proposed to his wife Cecilia, whose family lives in San Antonio. Abbott credited his wife with helping him through the difficult times following his injury.
"Our marriage was a uniting of cultures," Abbott said of Cecilia. "My Anglo heritage, and Cecilia's Irish and Hispanic heritage. The reality is we may have come from different cultures, but we realized we shared the very same foundation."
In his twenty minutes speech, Abbott also highlighted his record as the state's longest-serving attorney general.
"I fought for justice in the courtroom and in our communities," said Abbott. "I fought for the constitutional principle of federalism, suing an overreaching federal government 27 times. I didn't invent that phrase, 'Don't Mess With Texas,' but I have applied it more than anyone else ever has."
"The very day the president signed 'Obamacare' into law, I took him to court to fight for our constitutional rights. I know the Constitution," said Abbott. "I've enforced the Constitution, and let me tell you, the Second Amendment and the Tenth Amendment are not suggestions, they are guaranteed rights that I will preserve, protect and defend."
When the official announcement came 15 minutes into his speech, Abbott's many supporters erupted into applause.
"I will never stop fighting," said Abbott. "And that's why I'm asking you and the people of Texas to elect me as your next governor."
With more than $20 million in his campaign war chest, Abbott begins the 2014 gubernatorial race with a major cash advantage. He offered a glimpse Sunday at what his campaign will focus on.
"Our water supplies are going too low. You know by traveling the highways that our traffic congestion is getting too thick, and our schools must do better," said Abbott. "We can solve those problems not by raising taxes, but by right-sizing government and putting real limits on spending in Austin, Texas."
Abbott will face a Republican primary challenger in former Texas Workforce Commissioner and former state party chair Tom Pauken, but when it comes to a Democratic opponent in a general election, there's only speculation.
Many Democrats hope state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) will run, but Davis has yet to indicate whether she intends to enter the race. The Texas Democratic Party has already launched the website thisisgregabbott.com, and unveiled a new web video Sunday labeling Abbott "bad for women."
"When Rick Perry announced he was stepping down, most Texans had a dream come true. But the sad reality is that Greg Abbott's record of failure - which is far worse than Perry's - would be a nightmare," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Sunday.
"Texan women have been attacked for years, but now Abbott has declared another war upon their rights," said Hinojosa. "Women throughout the state, have already been through this rodeo. We will not stop informing voters about Abbott and his record of extremism. Democrats will continue to organize and show up in large numbers to make our voices heard, all the way to election day in November 2014."
A former Democratic state representative who switched to the Republican party before announcing he would not seek reelection, Aaron Peña said Democrats, whether Davis or someone else, would face a difficult election in 2014.
"Many Hispanic Democrats are Catholic and pro-life," said Peña. "And certainly amongst the older Hispanics, I don't think her message is being well-received. That's going to be a nuance they're going to have to deal with."
Meanwhile Abbott's supporters said although not surprised, they were nonetheless excited by the Sunday announcement.
"He holds my same conservative values, as far as the Second Amendment and the First Amendment," said San Antonio resident George Howard.
"I like the policies that are in place," said Audrey Howard. "I hope he continues along those lines and pushes them even more."
"Join with me in fighting for the ideals and the values of the greatest people to inhabit this earth, the people of Texas," Abbott concluded before greeting supporters.
Now the stage is set for the battle for 2014.