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'The Overcomer': How Greg Abbott is Staking his Claim on the Governor's Mansion

The new cover of Texas Monthly is likely to ruffle some feathers. 

It depicts Attorney General Greg Abbott in his wheelchair, shotgun slung over his shoulder. In bold print above him are the words "The Gov," with an asterisk. In small print: "Barring an unlikely occurrence." 

But unlikely occurrences have been a big part of the story of Greg Abbott, as he would certainly acknowledge.  The question is: what do you do with those moments?  If elected, how would he lead? 

This summer, Abbott announced his plans to run for Governor of Texas in San Antonio – where he proposed to his wife – but Texas Monthly’s Brian Sweany says it wasn’t the location that mattered so much as the date: July 14, which was 29 years after the unlikely occurrence that would forever change Abbott’s life.

Sweany sat down with KUT’s David Brown to discuss this month’s cover story.

“The fact that he chose to have the announcement on that day shows not only how important it is, but also General Abbott wants people to know that he has overcome this,” Sweany says. “He’s worked every day of his life to show that not only can he have a normal life, but an exceptional life.”

Sweany wrote how Abbott’s path led to politics as a result of the accident.

“I think he was a young person on the rise who was going to have a very respectable career,” Sweany says. “There was a path he could have been on, where he was tallying up his billable hours and making reservations at River Oaks Country Club and raising his family and living that lifestyle. I think what happened with the accident, it refocused his work ethic and brought it into sharper focus.”

While the 2014 election is destined for its share of “knife fights,” as Sweany calls them, the path to governor seems rather wide open for Abbott.

“The fact that the pathway is so open, shows something not only of how General Abbott has positioned himself but also what other people think about him and his formidability.”

While his personal story differs widely from other Republican candidates in Texas, Sweany explained how his policies fall in line with Rick Perry’s initiatives. Some examples include gun rights, graduation requirements and minimal financial regulation.

“There aren’t a lot of policy initiatives that differ in many ways from the previous administration,” he says. “The brand of conservatism that we will see General Abbott try to pursue won’t look unfamiliar to people.”

“I think he sees that there’s not a reason right now to stake out very specific issues or proposals that he wants to pursue. He wants the record as attorney general to speak for itself, but I also think he also wants the life story to be inspirational and compelling and be the kind of thing that you look at him and think, ‘I’d like that guy to be my governor.’”

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
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