Attorney General Greg Abbott said Thursday that Texas' booming economy is the nation's strongest and he promised it will remain that way if he's elected governor.
Addressing the Texas Association of Realtors, the Republican said the state has led America in job growth over the past 10 years, since the end of the national recession or any way "you slice and dice the numbers."
"The truth is, Texas is exceptional," Abbott told a crowd of several hundred adoring Texans inside an Austin hotel ballroom. "I'm running for governor to keep it that way."
Federal data shows that Texas created nearly half of the nation's new jobs in the two years following the June 2009 official end of the last recession, and a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic report had the state continuing to create more jobs than any other for the 12-month period through this August.
There are, however, other ways to measure just how strong an economy is. North Dakota, which like Texas is experiencing its own surging economy fueled by its energy sector, saw its Gross Domestic Product grow by more than a third between 2008 and last year, nearly three times Texas' growth rate over the same period. Texas also ranks 29th nationally in median household income because many of its jobs are low-paying.
Abbott promised to keep the federal government from overburdening Texas businesses, decrying extra regulations created by the nation's new health care law.
"We're seeing regulations like this put a lid on the aspiration to grow. That would be the highest cost paid in America by federal government overreach," he said. "I believe that your business and your future should be defined only by the size of your dreams, not by the size of government."
Abbott didn't mention Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who launched her gubernatorial campaign last week. But he promised to continue championing right-to-work policies that "prevent the union abuses you see in some communities like Detroit."
"How would you like to be a real estate agent in Detroit?" Abbott asked. He said he'd read that people there could buy homes using a credit card: "Not a lot of commission based upon a house sale when you can buy it by credit card."
Davis became a national political sensation by leading a nearly 13-hour filibuster in the Legislature this summer to temporarily block strict new limits on abortion statewide. Still, Abbott has long been seen as the natural successor to Gov. Rick Perry, who chose not to seek a fourth full term next year.
A Democrat hasn't won statewide office in Texas in nearly 20 years.
Abbott, who has been Texas' attorney general since 2002, reminded the crowd how a tree fell on him while he was out jogging at age 26, "Leaving me forever paralyzed and using the wheelchair that I remain in today."
"Our lives are not defined by the challenges we face," he said. "Instead, we define our lives by how we respond to the challenges we face."