By Will Weissert and Jim Vertuno
AUSTIN — Republican Greg Abbott was sworn in Tuesday as Texas’ first new governor in more than 14 years, though he’s expected to keep the state’s conservative focus as he concentrates on border security, education and economic issues.
Abbott was inaugurated in a ceremony on the Capitol steps that also featured new Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. That kicked off daylong festivities that organizers raised more than $4.5 million to stage, which include a parade through Austin, a barbeque with four tons of beef brisket, a ball and a concert featuring Lady Antebellum.
The 57-year-old Abbott succeeds Rick Perry, who took office December 2000 and says he’ll announce an expected second presidential run perhaps as early as May or June. Perry, who took over after George W. Bush was elected president, was the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
Politics in the nation’s second most-populous state aren’t expected to change much under Abbott, who says he’ll be as strongly conservative as Perry. But Abbott, a former state attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice, brings a lawyerly mentality different from his predecessor’s political cowboy persona.
Abbot has said his top priorities are securing the Texas-Mexico border, bolstering transportation and water infrastructure, improving education and encouraging job growth through state-directed economic development programs. He’s largely avoided hot-button conservative issues raised by the tea party-backed Patrick and other top Republicans, including immigration and school vouchers.