Pressing a campaign issue in an election season where Texas Democrats are showing unusual resilience, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday invited political candidates to sign his “Back the Blue” pledge against cities working “to defund and dismantle police departments.”
Abbott’s social media plea directed candidates and voters to his campaign website to add their names to the pledge.
“This reckless action invites crime into our communities, and it threatens the safety of all Texans, including our law enforcement officers and their families,” Abbott said by video from his personal Twitter account.
Abbott’s website included a printable pledge, and he asked supporters to post their signed copies on social media at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The Republican governor isn’t on the Nov. 3 ballot, but Abbott has turned policing into a top campaign issue as liberal activists have pressed for significant changes in the way police departments are operated and funded in the wake of high-profile deaths of Black men and women at the hands of officers and the sometimes violent clashes between police and those protesting racial injustice.
The pledge was Abbott’s latest response since the Austin City Council cut $21.5 million from the Police Department, largely by canceling three cadet classes, with the potential to shift $129 million in police funding toward social service programs and other city departments to take over mental health, addiction and other responses that typically fall to police.
Joined by other Republican leaders, Abbott has proposed a property tax freeze, to be enacted when the Legislature convenes in January, to penalize cities that cut police budgets.
Last week, Abbott said he was studying a proposal to place Austin police under the Department of Public Safety’s control.
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said Abbott’s pledge was a continuation of a campaign of fear-mongering that conveniently shifts attention away from an inadequate response to COVID-19 and other shortcomings.
“He doesn’t miss a political opportunity to punch down at movements for civil rights,” Casar said. “The governor is trying to hurt the Black Lives Matter movement and attack the civil rights movement for his own political benefit.”
Several recent polls indicate that in the race for president, Democrat Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are in a tight race in Texas.
Democrats and supporters also have launched an aggressive and expensive bid to flip nine GOP seats in the Texas House in an effort to give Democrats majority control of the Legislature’s lower chamber.
Carrie Isaac, the Republican candidate for a Texas House district serving Hays and Blanco counties, quickly followed Abbott’s plea by posting a signed version of the Back the Blue pledge, telling Abbott, “I’m with you,” in a Twitter post.
Trump also has made policing a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, frequently portraying efforts to “defund the police” by Biden and other “radical left Democrats” as a misguided policy that will destroy America and decrease safety.
In response, Biden has said he does not believe police departments should be defunded but stresses that police reform is urgently needed to ensure justice and address racial inequality that continues to hurt the nation and its citizens.
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