Gov. Greg Abbott prays before most meals, regardless of location, he told a packed room at the San Antonio Country Club at a luncheon on Friday.

He thanks God for his family, for his country, and for making him a Texan, he said. This year, he started concluding that prayer differently. “I thank God for what [U.S. Rep. Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez has done for the Republican Party. “

Members of the Alamo City Republican Women’s Club and several local Republican elected officials erupted with applause at his reference to the progressive freshman congresswoman from New York.

“Have you ever seen anybody galvanize and unite the Republican Party the way that Ocasio-Cortez has?” Abbott asked the crowd, emphasizing the need to re-elect President Donald Trump and other Republicans in 2020.

He warned of a “massive wave of liberal cash” that will be used to oust Republican representatives such as U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“If we lose Texas, we lose America,” Abbott said.

The GOP currently dominates Texas’ capitol, but three House Republicans from Texas have announced their retirements in recent days, including U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes). There’s been speculation that this could weaken Texas’ position as a red state in 2020, but others have dismissed the impact. Abbott did not comment on that in his speech.

He did, however, criticize Ocasio-Cortez, who has 5 million Twitter followers and is the leader of “the Squad,” a quartet of freshmen congresswomen of color.

“Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad, they are driving the Democrat agenda,” Abbott said.

A firestorm erupted recently when President Donald Trump told the Squad via Twitter to “go back” to their countries of origin. All four women – Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are U.S. citizens, and one immigrated here as a teenager. His remarks have been called racist and could violate federal anti-discrimination laws

Abbott did not mention Trump’s tweet, and many GOP lawmakers have remained relatively silent on the topic. Abbott did mention that enhanced border security and immigration reform should be Congress’ top priority.

Abbott is taking a kind of victory lap around Texas after a legislative session that achieved several of his top priorities, including property tax and education funding reform. He also pointed to statewide job growth and economic development.

Texas enjoyed an all-time low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it decreased to 3.4 percent in June this year. Texas led the nation in annual job growth last year, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

“There’s a reason for this success – I gotta tell ya it’s not socialism,” Abbott said.

Abbott concluded a record-breaking fundraising stint during the two-week window after the legislative session in June. According to his campaign, he raised $12.1 million – the most a Republican governor has ever raised. He’s up for re-election in 2022.

After the governor left the luncheon, State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) told the audience to “stand against the extremism of the left” and work with other grassroots organizations to defeat Democrats in upcoming elections.

Texas must stay red, Campbell said, “because there is no other Texas for us to move to.”

Avatar photo

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at