Gov. Greg Abbott has been accused of stacking the strike force overseeing the reopening of the state’s economy with political donors and buddies, including Mike Toomey, a tough-as-nails political operative and influential lobbyist who is handling the day-to-day operations.
Abbott counters that his main objective in choosing Toomey was the ability to deliver quick results. He notes Toomey has decades of service from working for two governors, is familiar with state agencies and how they operate, understands the state budget and the process of using federal funds.
Abbott said it was also important to him that the person leading the effort not be a lobbyist. Toomey was a lobbyist up until he was appointed to the strike force. He took formal steps to deregister that same day.
The other 39 members of the Governor’s Strike Force to Reopen Texas are mostly white, male, super-rich and politically connected. As Reform Austin previously reported, they have made their millions in oil and gas, retail, major league sports, high finance and entertainment.
In a letter to party faithful, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia says the composition of the strike force makes Abbott’s priorities clear.
“Not one small business owner, local official, or labor leader is on Abbott’s list,” said Garcia. “Abbott clearly highly values the perspectives of corporate CEOs and millionaire campaign donors while leaving the opinions of small businesses, localities, or ordinary Texans completely unrepresented.”
Abbott argues that the strike force members were chosen for their expertise.
“The people who are advising me from the perspective of the medical perspective, they’re doctors not donors,” said Abbott. “Our health care approach to all communities is going to be based upon both data and doctors, regardless of what businesses they come from.”Abbott will be announcing next steps in his phased reopening of Texas on Monday. He has said that hair salons, restaurants and more will be reopening soon, but he has also indicated that all of Texas will not reopen at the same time. Earlier this week, state parks were reopened, non-emergency medical procedures resumed and retail businesses were allowed to begin curbside or retail to-go service across the state.