Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, like other governors, saw his profile rise as state chief executives have coordinated major elements of the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Abbott, who has held high-profile roles in the Texas government for more than 20 years, has become one of the most influential politicians – particularly among Republicans – in the entire United States.
Here’s what to know about the governor of one of the largest states in the U.S.
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He has worked at the highest levels of Texas government for years
In addition to serving as the governor of Texas, a job he has held since 2015, Abbott was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court beginning in the 1990s.
He was then elected as Texas’ attorney general from 2002 until his election as governor over a decade later.
Underscoring his popularity in the state, Abbott won his 2018 reelection by more than 13 percentage points over his Democratic opponent even as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won his reelection against charismatic Democrat Beto O’Rourke by less than three percentage points.
Abbott touts his work on border security, education, cutting taxes and establishing a “Cyber Crimes Unit to arrest criminals who use the Internet to prey upon children,” as some of his top accomplishments as governor.
He’s paralyzed below the waist
Abbott was going for a jog in 1984 when a tree fell on him, paralyzing him from the waist down. Though he cannot move them, Abbott does still has some feeling in his legs. He was forced to miss the 2016 Republican National Convention while suffering pain from severe burns after he was scalded by hot water below his knees while on a family vacation.
He is the first governor of any U.S. state to permanently use a wheelchair since former Alabama Gov. George Wallace left office in 1987.
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He initially backed Ted Cruz in 2016
Abbott, one of the most popular politicians in Texas, endorsed Cruz, another popular Texan during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. He, however, was not as reluctant as Cruz, who famously did not explicitly endorse Trump in his speech at the 2016 convention, to back the party’s nominee that year.
“Texans will robustly come out and support a campaign against Hillary Clinton,” Abbott said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in 2016, according to Politico. “Donald Trump is going to win the state of Texas.”
He’s being sued by Planned Parenthood over part of his coronavirus response
Abbott was on the receiving end of a March lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations over the state’s ban on non-essential medical procedures as his state dealt with an increase in coronavirus cases, putting a strain on medical resources.
That ban included abortions.
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“Gov. Abbott and anti-abortion activists nationwide are forcing a legal and political fight in the middle of a public health crisis,” PPFA acting president and CEO Alexis McGill-Johnson said. “Elected leaders are expending valuable time and resources exploiting a global pandemic to score political points instead of rallying to respond to this crisis.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would vigorously back Abbott’s order to halt abortions.
“It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice,'” he tweeted. “My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott’s Order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis.”
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Abbott’s coronavirus response has included many of the same measures other states are taking, including closing schools and instructing citizens to leave their homes for only “essential activities.”
“Social distancing is our best tool in the fight against COVID-19, and the actions we have taken thus far have proven to be effective in limiting the spread of this virus,” he said in a statement.
Abbott has not issued a full stay-at-home order as other states have but has taken some of the aggressive actions to limit travel into his state. He issued a mandate on March 30 that all people coming to Texas from California, Washington state, Louisiana, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tyler Olson covers politics for FoxNews.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @TylerOlson1791.