While Gov. Greg Abbott got a lot of attention in August, it wasn't necessarily his best month.
Abbott and several other top officials had spent much of the month responding to a terrorist in El Paso who on Aug. 3 killed 22 and wounded several more. The shooter had driven from Allen, just northeast of Dallas, more than 600 miles to El Paso to pull off his massacre. He had posted a manifesto online shortly before his deadly rampage.
The problem for Abbott was that the day before, on Aug. 2, he had sent out a campaign fundraising letter that warned that illegal immigration could imperil Texas and the nation by helping Democrats gain control.
“The national Democrat machine has made no secret of the fact that it hopes to ‘turn Texas blue.’ If they can do it in California, they can do it in Texas – if we let them,” Abbott wrote in the fundraising appeal.
Abbott closed his letter with another warning: “Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas – and our entire country – through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send.”
In his manifesto published just before the shooting, the 21-year-old El Paso shooter condemned a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” After his surrender, he told authorities he was targeting “Mexicans” – which, after discovery of the manifesto, led federal authorities to begin investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.
Abbott's response to the El Paso shooting included forming a new Texas Safety Commission, which held its second meeting in El Paso Aug. 29. The governor brought along his wife Cecilia, who is Hispanic. The meeting was closed to the press, but Abbott met with reporters briefly before asking them to leave the room where the commission was to meet. Abbott told reporters he had talked with state legislators from El Paso – all of whom are Democrats – about his fundraising letter. He said he "emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.”
“I did get the chance to visit with the El Paso delegation and help them understand that mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” he said. “We will make sure that we work collaboratively in unification. I had the opportunity to visit with [the El Paso delegation] for about an hour to fully discuss the issue.”
Abbott told the reporters that what had happened in El Paso was "racist hate."
“The killer in El Paso definitely was a racist, and he was intent on acting out on his racism,” Abbott said. “If you look at his manifesto, you will see time and time again his target was Texas – the Texas culture, the Hispanic community and blended communities. Some of the victims of this horrific crime are blended communities. My family is blended communities. My wife is the first Hispanic first lady in Texas. Her family came from Mexico. We need to address this attack on who we are as Texans.”
There have been calls for some serious clampdowns on guns in the wake of several mass shootings in Texas, but despite agreeing that the issue needs to be looked at, state leaders have not yet come up with any solutions.
In fact, on Sunday, Sept. 1, several new laws passed last spring went into effect that actually loosened gun laws.
But the day before, on Saturday, Aug. 31, a shooter in Midland and Odessa, with an AR-15 style rifle, randomly killed seven people and wounded 22 more. He was 36, lived in Odessa and had a criminal record. He died in a shootout with police in Odessa. There was no immediate link to terrorism.
As he has done after previous mass shootings, Abbott attended a press conference – this one on Sunday, Sept. 1, at The University of Texas-Permian Basin in Odessa.
“I’m heartbroken by the crying of the people of the State of Texas,” Abbott said. “I’m tired of the dying of the people of the State of Texas. Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable and action is needed.”
The Republican governor has been a longtime advocate for gun rights. He said the state must keep guns out of the hands of criminals like the gunman in Odessa, “while also assuring that we safeguard Second Amendment rights, and we must do it fast.”
Meanwhile, we'll see if the governor drops the "invasion" tone of his fundraising efforts.