Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Trade Campaign Trail Barbs

February 11, 2022 by Reece Nations
Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Trade Campaign Trail Barbs
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

SAN ANTONIO — Texas’s dueling gubernatorial candidates took shots at one another during overlapping campaign events on Thursday.

Both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate former United States Rep. Beto O’Rourke made stops in San Antonio to discuss their platforms and trade barbs with each other. Abbott held his event at the Sunbelt Material Handling shop, while O’Rourke held his event at The Espee Pavilion where Abbott announced his 2018 reelection campaign.

Both scenes buzzed with enthusiasm as the respective candidates made their appearances and talked policy. Abbott’s speech highlighted accomplishments that came under his leadership, touting business growth and efforts to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Abbott made note of the numerous bills aimed at cutting property taxes passed during each legislative session of his tenure and underscored the prohibition of a state income tax in the Texas Constitution. Abbott was flanked by a multitude of business stakeholders including the leaders of the Texas Manufacturers Association, the Independent Bankers Association of Texas and the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, who praised his commitments to private sector growth.

“If you look at all of the employees for all of these associations — the majority of the private sector in Texas are represented,” Abbott said. “Texas remains the number one destination in America for economic growth. Texas now has the ninth-largest economy in the entire world.”

Abbott recently revealed another proposal to amend the state constitution to institute a so-called Parental Bill of Rights, as previously reported by The Well News. Abbott’s vision for a similar Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which would require local governments to issue debt with the approval of two-thirds of the governing body and offer a property tax discount to those who pay their taxes in full prior to Jan. 31 of each year.

When asked by reporters about improvements to the state power grid, Abbott pointed to energy demand rates during a recent surge of winter weather last week that similarly strained electricity supplies. Local power outages were primarily caused by trees and ice temporarily knocking out power lines, but the power grid resisted widespread outages.

“The power grid is more resilient, more stable, and stronger than it has ever been in the history of our state,” Abbott said.

Meanwhile, O’Rourke hammered hard on the failures leading up to and as a result of last February’s winter storm that knocked out power across the state. The Well News previously reported bills passed last year by the Texas Legislature stopped short of mandating energy providers to winterize gas supply chains other than those that directly serve electric generators, rendering interconnecting supply chains vulnerable.

O’Rourke characterized campaign contributions to Abbott by oil and gas companies that profited from the scarcity of electricity during the 2021 freeze as “bribes” and accused him of corruption. Further, O’Rourke blamed rising utility bills in the state on Abbott and his appointees at the state Public Utility Commission.

“These energy companies and energy traders, these donors to Greg Abbott made $11 billion in profits over the course of five days,” O’Rourke said. “And when the legislative session wrapped up without a single action taken to require them to weatherize the grid or to prevent that kind of destruction and death again, they turned around and gave them $4.6 million in just the first 10 days after that legislative session.”

O’Rourke’s rhetoric on the campaign trail thus far has been more aggressive than it was when he campaigned against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. He characterized Republican efforts to curb abortion rights in the state and the underfunding of public education as bad for recruiting workers and businesses to Texas.

O’Rourke called the surging utility bills and the “tens of billions” of taxpayer dollars needed to avert future mass power outages this winter as the “Abbott tax.” Utility bill rates have swelled on average in Texas due to changes by the Public Utility Commission that prioritize reliability over affordability.

“We are all paying the price for this guy’s corruption and his incompetence measured in lives, measured in dollars, measured in that Abbott tax that you’re paying month in and month out, going forward, until we make a change,” O’Rourke said.

Early voting for the Texas gubernatorial primaries starts on Feb. 14.

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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