SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott was in San Antonio on Tuesday to receive endorsements for another term in office from lawmen across the state of Texas.
Abbott was surrounded by more than 24 sheriffs, who all said he provided resources and security their counties needed, like Operation Lone Star, which boosted security along the border last year.
Among the endorsements Abbott received was one from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County. But noticeably absent at the news conference was Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who is a Democrat.
“I’m proud to be here at the Bexar County Deputy Sheriff’s Association headquarters to be with the men and women who serve in the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and to be endorsed by the men and women who work in the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office,” Abbott said.
Abbott also pushed back against critics of his border security mission and the suicides that have been linked to it, saying the loss of any life is “extraordinarily hurtful” but that his detractors are “just playing politics.”
According to the Texas Tribune, the group of critics include his challengers for reelection in both parties, who have been highlighting reports that there have been four suicides, pay delays and other problems among the National Guard troops that Abbott has sent to the border as part of “Operation Lone Star.”
Abbott said the pay issue affected a small portion of the troops and has been resolved. However, when it came to the suicides, Abbott gave an animated answer during which he lamented the deaths but said critics should also be focused on the military suicides that have happened under President Joe Biden.
“If they are saying something about what’s happening to the National Guard in Texas, why are they not at the very same time saying something about President Biden and having lost hundreds of members of the US military … to suicide?” Abbott said. “Why are they silent about that? The answer — they’re just playing politics. The life of a soldier is far more valuable than the words of a soldier playing politics.”
The Army Times reported in December that four soldiers tied to Operation Lone Star had died by suspected suicide over two months. The publication reported last week that a fifth solider had accidentally shot and killed himself while off duty and that a sixth had attempted suicide and survived.
Abbott said the suicides are being investigated and thinks it will come out that not all “actually occurred during Operation Lone Star.” One of the soldiers was denied a hardship release and died by suicide a few days later, the Army Times reported. Another was on temporary hardship waiver when he died, according to the publication.
The visit to the Alamo City was part of the governor’s plan to rev up his reelection campaign — including 60 campaign stops in under two months — as he readies for the March 1 Republican primary before a likely general-election battle against Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
Abbott officially announced his bid for a third term last weekend in the Rio Grande Valley, where he discussed his goal to win the Hispanic vote, according to his campaign.
Abbott’s campaign said the objective is to supercharge turnout in the GOP primary.
Editor’s Note: The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.
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