April 15, 2020
Don Huffines Condemns Abbott for Virus Performance
in Potential Preview of 2022 Republican Primary Fight
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Texas Experiences Deadliest
Day in Coronavirus Contagion
The coronavirus killed more people in Texas on Tuesday than it had in a single day since the pandemic started claiming lives here six weeks ago.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 318 here deaths on Tuesday - an increase of almost 11 percent from the previous day.
But Johns Hopkins University data analysts had the Tuesday death toll in Texas much higher with 362 fatalities here by midnight - 45 more than the school reported on Monday. That represents a 14 percent increase in COVID-19 deaths from the virus that's left more than 23,000 Americans dead in less than two months.
But the total number of new confirmed cases in Texas on Tuesday was up only 5.1 percent based on the state agency count and 5.8 percent in the private Baltimore university's running tally. That appears to support Governor Greg Abbott's claims that the coronavirus curve has started to flatten here despite the soaring death toll.
Johns Hopkins researchers had the total number of Texas positive tests at 15,517 by 2 p.m. Wednesday with 367 ending in death.
A former state senator with tea party ties appeared to be laying the framework for a statewide bid in two years when he castigated Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday for the actions that he's taken since the coronavirus outbreak in Texas got under way early last month.
Dallas Republican Don Huffines sparked speculation on a campaign for governor in 2022 when he accused Abbott of wrecking the Texas economy by delegating emergency powers to liberal local leaders while blindly following the federal government's lead with restrictions that he's imposed on businesses and individuals in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
"It is time to face the facts: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not been a leader in the coronavirus crisis," Huffines declared. "He has relinquished his responsibilities to local governments, and in his own words, acknowledged he is looking to Washington for guidance. This is a very disappointing and un-Texan response."
Huffines - a wealthy Dallas developer who was ousted from the Senate by a Democrat in 2018 - packaged the scorching review as an editorial column that he circulated around the state. Huffines had blasted the Republican governor in January amid the assertion that Abbott had failed to put a dent in voter fraud in Texas like he and other GOP leaders and lawmakers had repeatedly promised to do.
Huffines suggested that he'd been a victim of electoral piracy in his first re-election race when Democratic State Senator Nathan Johnson of Dallas unseated him based on evidence that he'd uncovered after the two squared off at the polls 18 months ago. Johnson had defeated Huffines by 8 percentage points with more than 54 percent of the vote in Senate District 16.
Tea party colleague Konni Burton who's based in neighboring Tarrant County had come closer in a 3-point loss to a Democratic challenger in the last cycle when Democrats rode a blue wave to victories in a dozen Texas House districts where the GOP had been on the defensive. Burton and other Republicans on the hard right in Texas have been sharply critical of the coronavirus lockdowns around the state as well.
Huffines had been highly critical of other statewide Republican leaders in speech to a tea party group early year when contended that Abbott and state election officials had shown no interest in pursuing a legal challenge amid the stolen election claims. But the ex-legislator's appraisal of Abbott's performance in the coronavirus crisis was much more harsh as he painted a picture of a state in disarray with a broken economy as a consequence of timid leadership at the top.
Abbott "has not clearly communicated a plan; he relies on Washington for direction and lets local leaders walk in where his lack of leadership creates a void," Huffines argued. "Since he is a governor of a sovereign state, Mr. Abbott alone is accountable for destroying the Texas economy and its generational consequences.
"Hardworking Texans are smart and independent, and we know the solutions to our problems come from ourselves. We need a governor committed to those truths."
Abbott has said that he plans to began a gradual reopening of Texas with an executive order that he will unveil later this week. The governor acknowledged in mid-March that he'd deferred initial decisions on shelter-in-place requirements to mayors and county judges for the sake of local control. Abbott extended the limitations on businesses and social movement statewide on the final day of March when Democrats and some Republicans criticized him for exempting churches from limits on public gathering by designated worship as an essential service.
Abbott hasn't indicated whether he plans to seek a third term as governor when the job is on the ballot again in 2022. While Abbott has been generally viewed as unbeatable in Texas thanks in part to a war chest that had $33 million at the end of December, Huffines would have the ability to bankroll a comeback campaign with personal money if he decides to challenge Abbott or run for governor in an open race in two years.
Don Huffines Column
It is time to face the facts: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not been a leader in the coronavirus crisis. He has relinquished his responsibilities to local governments, and in his own words, acknowledged he is looking to Washington for guidance. This is a very disappointing and un-Texan response.
Texans are independent, self-motivated, individualists; yet the decisions made by the Texas governor have led to further economic damage as a disproportionate response to the fact that, as of April 14, 318 people have died out of 29 million Texas residents, which is a 0.0000109 percent total fatality rate.
Meanwhile, the governor has effectively shut down the 10th-largest economy in the world by not standing up to local leaders who are usurping his authority, such as liberal County Judges Clay Jenkins and Glen Whitley, along with Democrat Mayors Sylvester Turner (Houston) and Ron Nirenberg (San Antonio). Abbott has been more concerned with political correctness than confronting this power grab; plus, he’s joined in lockstep with the parade of emotional decision-makers in Washington who have caused massive economic damage.
Texas is a sovereign state where the governor holds the ultimate say. Abbott has had the chance of a lifetime to step in as a leader in the middle of a massive crisis and approach this threat with logic and reason. Other governors in states such as Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota have taken the approach of empowering their citizens with facts while allowing everyone to be personally responsible for what works for their individual health.
Sweden provides another example of taking a logical approach and questioning not only the effectiveness but also the legality of a total lockdown. What has been proven is that economic shutdown creates irreversible shockwaves felt for generations. The mental and physical health repercussions of record unemployment and government dependency must also be considered. Texas leaders must ask hard questions and lead their citizens in a path based on facts, not emotion.
Instead, Abbott began by deferring to local governments to do whatever they wanted. The overstep by Texas’ most liberal local leaders was met with silence by the governor. Texas needs a unifying plan of definitive and clear rules, which can only come from a governor.
Local government, especially liberal socialist-leaning leaders, should not be making these incredibly important decisions on how to stop the virus, thereby shutting down the economy and creating a hodgepodge of rules that propagate more anxiety and confusion.
Fear of the virus is real and understandable, but being unemployed and financially destitute is even more real and consequential. Most Texans live by each paycheck and are angry and panicked about their financial security. The unintended consequences of the destruction of the Texas economy are almost unimaginable … poverty, mental health issues, suicide, and crime, just to name a few. Texans deserve leaders who are thoughtful, act independently of political pressure, and weigh every risk equitably and accurately, always understanding that the fundamental role of government is to defend liberty.
For example: according to the Texas Department of Transportation, more than 3,600 people die in vehicle accidents annually, and tens of thousands are injured. Should the government outlaw cars? Shut down any automotive-related employment?
Statistically, the risk of dying in a car accident is much higher than dying from COVID-19. However, the Texas government takes a balanced approach to weighing the risks and rewards associated with vehicle operation and chooses to equip citizens with every opportunity to drive safely, while giving individuals liberty to choose their method of transportation.
On March 19, the governor said, “There was nothing specific in the executive order about churches because there is freedom of religion here in the United States of America.” Yet when local leaders like Judge Lina Hidalgo from Houston and Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins defied him and issued orders specifically closing down churches, Abbott said nothing.
Gov. Abbott has not clearly communicated a plan; he relies on Washington for direction and lets local leaders walk in where his lack of leadership creates a void. Since he is a governor of a sovereign state, Mr. Abbott alone is accountable for destroying the Texas economy and its generational consequences.
Hardworking Texans are smart and independent, and we know the solutions to our problems come from ourselves. We need a governor committed to those truths.