SAN ANTONIO (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Attorney General Greg Abbott has formally kicked off his 2014 campaign for governor a week after Gov. Perry said he wouldn’t seek re-election.

The well-known, well-financed and fierce social conservative said Sunday in San Antonio that he wants to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, who has announced he won’t seek a fourth full term. Abbott has raised nearly $23 million.

Abbott told the crowd of supporters in San Antonio about the day 29 years ago when a tree fell on him while he was out jogging.  The large oak tree crushed his spine and made him an even stronger fighter.

“Too often you hear politicians get up and talk about having a spine of steel,” said Abbott. “I actually have one, and I will use mine to fight for you and fight for Texas and fight for families every single day.”

Abbott is considered by many to be the overwhelming favorite to be the state’s next governor.

University of Texas at Dallas political science professor Robert Lowery said it will be tough for any candidate to catch Abbott.

“In a sense he has already won the first contest,” said Lowery.  “He has raised a huge amount of money.  He has a lot more than Perry had on him and no one else seems to be close so the donors already seem to be pretty much said he is our guy.”

Democrats characterize Abbott as a more conservative version of Perry, which they say could put moderate Republicans into play come the election.

Dallas County Democrat Chair Darlene Ewing said, “I think the moderate intelligent thinking Republicans are going to be somewhat reluctant to get on his bandwagon.”

No Democratic candidate has emerged, though some have urged state Sen. Wendy Davis to run. She became famous for her 12-plus-hour filibuster over sweeping new abortion limits during the Legislature’s first special session.

Abbott has held office since 2002 and is popular among mainstream Republicans and tea party activists. Abbott has also sued the federal government on Texas’ behalf 27 times during the Obama administration.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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