TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Governor Greg Abbott visited Tyler on Thursday taking part in a town hall hosted at the UT Tyler Cowan Center.

The event was broadcast exclusively on KETK where anchor Neal Barton was a lead moderator along with two more from our sister station in Austin, Sally Hernandez, and Phil Prazan.

The topic of the night was the devastating shooting in El Paso that claimed the lives of 22 and injured 24 others.


Governor Abbott silenced the crowd by saying, “Even though I am in Tyler tonight, my heart is still in El Paso.”

Sally Hernandez calls El Paso home as well as Gov. Abbott, which called for him to present Sally with an #ElPasoStrong bracelet.


Gov. Abbott spoke on the plans the legislature has in place when it comes to domestic terrorism. “First is with this domestic terrorism task force that will be operating year around,” he said. “We will be including all of the deligation of El Paso as well as other leaders across that state of Texas where we will put every issue on the table,” he said.”

Round tables are set to be held soon that will discuss gun control and prevention plans.


Many people have asked about the implementation of red flag laws in Texas. Gov. Abbott said there are current laws in place regarding mental health and previous convictions.

Gov. Abbott mentioned if a red flag law would have prevented the shooting in El Paso. “The shooter in El Paso had demonstrated no red flags at all,” he said.

This is true based on many investigation reports that showed the shooter’s background and motives.


The Texas Rangers have investigated whether Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen offered a group media credentials in exchange for politically targetting a list of GOP members in the 2020 primaries.

Asking about whether Bonnen should resign, Gov. Abbott said, “It’s premature, we need to find out what the rangers are going to find.”


Starting with audience questions, Wood County Sheriff Tom Castloo asked about the plan of immigration at the U.S. and Mexico border.

Gov. Abbott expressed, “There’s one reason and one reason only, why we have to spend this money, and that’s because the United States Congress is not doing its job to secure our borders.”

When asked why 1,000 members of the National Guard to the border, he explained that during that time 45,000 people came in from different countries. “When Border Patrol is making arrests, they’re not at the border, doing their jobs.” 


When asked about recent retirements of lawmakers that may cause a political shift, Gov. Abbott said, “Is there any big dynamic change going on in the state of Texas? No the political ties are not staying, Texas is a red state it is going to stay a red state after this next election.”


One audience member from Austin asked about the possibility of a high-speed rail to connect major towns in the state.

“There are going to be different ways to commute and get around,” Gov. Abbott said.


Asked about the legislation’s plan on lowering property taxes, Gov. Abbott said, “We use more than five billion dollars to reduce your property tax rates.”

He said it is the greatest effort in Texas that limits government, school districts, cities, and counties from growing their revenues from property taxes.


The Internet separates rural and urban communities in East Texas. Gov. Abbott mentioned the passing of rural broadband funding that makes sure everyone has equal access to internet.


Speaking on experiences and challenges, Gov. Abbott said his highest leadership positions were held after his accident that put him in his wheelchair.

He’s held positions such as a Supreme Court Justice, longest-serving Attorney General, and Governor.

“I truly believe in my heart that Texas is the best state in the entire United States of America,” he said before receiving a standing ovation.


Mental health is an ongoing topic before and after the tragedies in Dayton and El Paso.

Gov. Abbott said, “We passed what’s called a mental health care consortium that brings together all of our universities in the state of Texas, having them work together to address the needs.”


Providing jobs to the formerly incarcerated was brought up as Gov. Abbott mentioned the Second Chances Law.

“Texas is already passed multiple laws where we are the national leader in making sure people have second chances,” he said.


Education is very important to Texas and East Texas.

“Our teachers are responsible for perpetuating our freedom through our democracy by educating our kids,” Gov. Abbott said.

One way to improve education is to increase salaries and allocate funds for training, career, and college readiness.


Property values for Alto were too low to qualify for FEMA aid, but Gov. Abbott sent help through Texas.

“I was able, as you pointed out, to declare a state disaster,” he said. “What that does it triggers the Texas Division of Emergency Management.”


The Texas Education Agency released district ratings that ranked schools based on their student’s success.

East Texas improved since 2018, but across Texas many districts tell a different story.

“Your academic success is not hinged to either your race or zip code,” Gov. Abbott said.


The last audience member asked about the security of voting during elections.

Gov. Abbott responded with, “We also need to make sure our voter registration are valid.”


Today marks 38 years of marriage for Gov. Greg Abbott and his wife.

“I want to say hi honey, love you, thank you for 38 fabulous years,” he said.

Gov. Abbott continued on about how she helped him in a troubled time after his accident to become Governor of Texas.

She is now the first Hispanic first lady in the history of Texas.


To wrap up the night, Representative Joaquin Castro gave a special message about the tragedy in El Paso.

“As the school year starts, we all have to face the fact that we have to look into our children’s eyes and have a conversation, not about the excitement of the first day of class, but about the people who could harm us and about getting back safe and active shooter drills,” said Rep. Castro.