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EXCLUSIVE: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is spotlighting his efforts over the past year to beef up security at the Lone Star State’s southern border with Mexico in his closing campaign commercial ahead of the state’s March 1 primary.
The ad, which was shared first with Fox News on Thursday, will start running this weekend, ahead the kickoff on Monday of nearly two weeks of early voting.
The spot, which the Abbott campaign says it will spend roughly $2.5 million to run statewide, stars sheriff Bill Waybourn of Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, and sheriff Ray Del Bosque of Zapata County, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border south of Laredo.
“There’s a clear and present danger in neighborhoods like this. It’s deadly fentanyl, and it’s killing our kids,” Waybourn says at the top of the ad. “How’s it getting here.”
“Right here, through our border,” Del Bosque says. “That’s why Gov. Abbott deployed the national guard to assist law enforcement at the border. He’s given us new authority to arrest trespassers and has increased jail capacity to handle criminal arrests. Joe Biden should be securing this border, but he won’t.”
“That’s why Gov. Abbott is getting the job done,” Waybourn says at the end of the commercial.
Border security is a top issue for Texas Republicans, and in a report issued earlier this week, the governor praised Operation Lone Star. That’s the effort he launched early last year, amid a surge of undocumented migrants at the nation’s southern border, to increase apprehensions of alleged criminals and seizure of illegal drugs.
While Abbott has named his border operation as one of his major successes, there’s been criticism of the mission from some Democrats and Republicans amid reports of suicides, poor working conditions, mismanagement and pay issues among the Texas National Guard troops sent to the border as part of the effort.
The top two candidates in a field of seven Republicans primary challenging Abbott – former Texas GOP chair Allen West, a former congressman from Florida, and former state Sen. Don Huffines – have repeatedly blasted the governor over his border mission.
Abbott enjoys the backing of former President Donald Trump and conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as he runs for re-election. The governor had more than $65 million in his campaign coffers at the end of last year, light years ahead of his primary challengers. And most polls indicate that Abbott holds a very large lead over the rest of the GOP field.
Abbott’s also outspent his primary rivals to run ads. According to figures from the national ad tracking firm AdImpact, the governor has spent $5.1 million so far to run spots, with Huffines shelling out nearly $3.9 million. None of the other Republican gubernatorial contenders have spent sizable amounts to run ads.
The winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary will likely face off in November against Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who became a rising Democratic Party star after coming close to ousting Cruz in the 2018 Senate election in Texas before launching an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
O’Rourke, who brought in $7.2 million in fundraising in the first 46 days of his campaign, faces nominal opposition for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination. And according to figures from AdImpact, O’Rourke spent a paltry $300,000 to run digital ads.