- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Republican Greg Abbott urged his party Friday to imagine a Texas in 2036 with better schools and health care while rallying a GOP Convention that is bitterly divided now over immigration and confronting smaller fissures over gay rights and medical marijuana.

The favorite to replace Gov. Rick Perry next year, Abbott broadly outlined to roughly 10,000 convention delegates who’ve clashed this week over the party platform a plan for better schools and health care in Texas when the state celebrates its bicentennial in 20 years.

But that timeline is significant for another reason Abbott didn’t mention: It’s when Democrats predict the Lone Star State will swing back their way after decades of Republican dominance, riding an increasingly younger and Hispanic electorate in Texas to future victories.

Even the GOP’s theme for its biennial convention in Fort Worth draws an unambiguous line in sand: Fight to Keep Texas Red.

“It has been 20 years since a Democrat has won a statewide election in Texas, and by God, we’re not going to let that record be broken this year,” Abbott said.

Abbott received a raucous ovation from GOP delegates, underlying his success as a rare conservative in Texas who’s successfully courted both tea party supporters and establishment Republicans. Both those two sides haven’t been so united at the convention on immigration.

Hardliners want stripped from the current state GOP platform the so-called “Texas Solution” that proposes a guest worker program to make it easier for immigrants in the U.S. illegally to get good jobs. Many in the tea party condemn it as a form of amnesty, while current party leaders say it satisfies the needs of a roaring Texas economy.

A contentious fight on immigration is expected Saturday when the full convention votes on a new platform.

Also included in the proposed platform is new language that endorses psychological treatments that seek to turn gay people straight - a practice that California and New Jersey have banned on minors. Delegates, however, could approve stripping decades-old language in the platform that states, “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.”

Democrat Wendy Davis, Abbott’s opponent in November, used Republicans pushing the “therapy” language to contrast the differences in her campaign Friday.

“Unlike Texas GOP, I believe that LGBT Texans #DontNeedFixin,” Davis tweeted, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Endorsing the use of medical marijuana could also elevate into a floor fight at the convention, though supporters were dealt a setback this week when a key committee removed earlier language that called for allowing prescription cannabis.

Hours before Abbott spoke to delegates as if he will be next Texas governor, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz whipped them into a frenzy by sounding like a 2016 presidential candidate.

Cruz promised to lead a conservative revolution unseen since Ronald Reagan, likened President Barack Obama to his 1970s Democratic predecessor, Jimmy Carter, and decried the economy “being trapped in the Great Stagflation.”

Cruz also not-so-subtly poked fun at the notion that gun rights that have been a sticking point at the convention, where supporters of open carry laws have rallied outside.

“In Texas, gun control means hitting what you aim at,” Cruz said.

Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick, the new Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, will be the headliner Saturday before the convention adjourns.


Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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