New York ad campaign fuels speculation over Abbott's plans


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 17 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- The invitation reads: "Wanted: Law abiding New York gun owners looking for lower taxes and greater opportunity."

The ad paid for by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is one of two appearing on websites in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed new gun regulations Wednesday in response to the deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

The tongue-in-cheek ads may be targeted as much at Texans as New Yorkers, as the latest in a string of high-profile actions by Abbott.

Last week, a source close to several top Republican donors told sister station WFAA in Dallas Abbott indicated plans to run for governor.

Texans for Greg Abbott spokesperson Eric Bearse told WFAA in a statement, "General Abbott has not made any announcements or decisions other than to vigorously serve the people of Texas."

"As Gen. Abbott previously remarked in a press conference, political decisions can wait until after the session," Bearse said. "In the meantime, he is focused on taking care of the business of the people of Texas."

Nonetheless, the recent ad campaign has only fueled speculation over the attorney general's plans. While Abbott frequently weighs in on legal cases and issues in Texas, the scope and visibility of his announcements over the past several months has only furthered discussion regarding his possible political future.

"What that suggests is he's raising his profile, he's creating a persona out there and he is getting ready to run," said Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report and longtime Texas politics watcher.

Finance reports filed this week show Abbott ending 2012 with more than $18 million in his campaign account, having raised $4.1 million since June 30, 2012. The final cash count is three times that of Gov. Rick Perry, who reported raising $3.6 million over the same period and ended the year with roughly $6 million in his campaign account.

Perry has said he hasn't ruled out a possible run for his fourth full term as governor in 2014, while Abbott has thus far refrained from revealing which office he plans to seek next. The two popular Republicans have worked together on many of the same issues, and both benefit from statewide name recognition and donor support.

In an interview last week, Perry brushed aside the suggestion that a primary challenge from an Abbott campaign with a fundraising advantage would discourage him from running for reelection.

"If folks want to speculate that's their business, but I've been underestimated many times before," Perry told KVUE.

"As he demonstrated in the Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bill White races, as long as his donors stick with him, he has no problem raising enough money for a Texas race," said Kronberg. "The question is, his donors are as loyal to Greg Abbott as they are to Rick Perry and we don't know yet which way they're going to break."

While the major money appears to favor Republicans, who will head the Democratic ticket is a source of talk as well. With around $407,000 million on hand at the end of 2012, State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) hasn't dismissed rumors she could run.

Despite an internet-based effort by the Bexar County Democratic Party chairman to "draft" national convention star Julian Castro, the San Antonio mayor told sister station KENS Thursday, "I'm not running. In fact, on February second I'm going to announce my reelection."

Someone will run in 2014, but for now the guessing continues.

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