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Gov. Abbott announces reelection bid in the Rio Grande Valley

File Photo — Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered the keynote address at the Texas Values policy forum at the Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
Aaron E. Martinez/American-State/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
File Photo — Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered the keynote address at the Texas Values policy forum.

Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to the border Saturday to announce his reelection campaign for a third term.

Abbott said he chose the Rio Grande Valley for a reason.

“I'm back in the Rio Grande Valley so much because I so much care about this region.” Abbott said. "In fact, I have been to the Rio Grande Valley, more than any other governor in the history of Texas."

Most of Abbott’s visits have concerned border security. The last time he visited the Valley was to introduce a new section of border wall. In the past year, Abbott launched the construction of a border wall on state land and a controversial state program to arrest migrants.

While announcing his bid for a third term, the governor emphasized border policies and lower taxes for property and business owners.

“I think what he what he was doing was speaking to that potential constituency down there," said Henry Flores, a political scientist and professor emeritus at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. "And he's trying to show that he's trying to make outreach to the Latino community and that Republicans are accepting of a community of Latino voters,” Flores said.

Related: There Are Millions of Latino Voters — But No 'Latino Vote'

According to exit polls, the governor won 42% of Texas’ Latino vote in 2018. In 2020, Republicans made significant gains in the traditionally blue Rio Grande Valley with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

Recently, state Senator Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City switched over the Republican party. Guillen was in attendance at Abbott’s reelection event, which Abbott called a “Hispanic Leadership Summit.”

“I'm proud of all of the Hispanic leaders who are a part of this summit today, some of whom are from right here in the RGV,” Abbott said. “I think all of whom are doing a fabulous job of spreading the message that in the heart of Hispanics, they really are Republicans and together they will keep Texas red.”

But even with a larger Latino voter base, Flores said issues like the power grid failure and COVID-19 public health policy — which the governor didn’t address in his announcement speech — may be working against his reelection.

“On one level, he's trying to generate support among Latino community, but another level, he's going to have to deal with these other bigger issues as well down the line,” Flores said.

Abbott faces former Texas GOP Chair Allen West in the March 1. primary. On The Democratic side, Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke has been campaigning since November — when he launched his campaign on the border in his hometown of El Paso.

Pablo de la Rosa contributed to this report.

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