orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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July 9, 2013

GOP eyes Abbott as Gov. Perry's successor in Texas

AUSTIN — Even as he announced he wasn't running for governor again, Rick Perry implored Texans not to rock the political boat too much in choosing a successor.

Although he stopped short of endorsing his Republican heir apparent, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, there was little debate that's who Perry was referring to when he repeated a famous quote from legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal.

"You gotta dance with the one that brung ya," Perry quipped, just before announcing that he wouldn't seek to continue in the office.

Abbott is popular with both grassroots tea party activists and mainstream conservatives in the GOP-dominated state. He already has raised a whopping $18 million in campaign funds, even without officially announcing his candidacy.

Perry said for months that he and Abbott had an agreement not to run against each other for governor — a pact Abbott never confirmed. Still, Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston, said Abbott did a masterful job biding his time so he could carry on Perry's conservative mantle without making it look like he pushed him aside.

"I think you can see this as a managed transition," Jones said, "but one that was done on Rick Perry's terms, not on anyone else's."

Abbott, who has used his post to sue the federal government more than 25 times since President Barack Obama took office, has kept a low profile in recent weeks while Perry, already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, made up his mind about his political future. And, he was purposely nowhere to be found Monday, when Perry formally eschewed a fourth re-election try in front of 200 relatives, friends, current and former staffers and supporters in San Antonio.

Abbott, now considered the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in primaries set for March, "will make his intentions clear in the coming weeks," spokesman Matt Hirsch said.

Despite holding his post since 2002 and positioning himself as Perry's likely successor, the 55-year-old Abbott is hardly a household name in Texas.

Abbott has used a wheelchair since he was 26, when a tree collapsed on him during a jog, leaving him paralyzed in both legs.

He has used the attorney general's office to constantly sue the Obama administration over everything from its signature health care reform law to environmental regulations to federal voting rules.

An avid defender of gun rights and fierce opponent of abortion, Abbott champions social conservative causes but also is seen as a strong fiscal conservative.

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