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Beto O’Rourke Announces Bid for Texas Governor

November 15, 2021 by Reece Nations
Democrat Beto O'Rourke listens to a volunteer before a Texas Organizing Project neighborhood walk in West Dallas on June 9, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

EL PASO, Texas — Former El Paso congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced on Monday that he is running for governor of Texas.

In the video announcing his candidacy, O’Rourke focused closely on the Texas government’s slow response to Winter Storm Uri in February that struck the state and caused rolling blackouts for days afterward — bringing the reliability of the state’s power grid into focus and complicating COVID-19 vaccine rollout efforts. O’Rourke seeks to end his party’s losing streak and become the first Democrat to win statewide office in Texas since 1994.

“It’s a symptom of a much larger problem that we have in Texas right now,” O’Rourke said in the video address. “Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving, paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas–and so they’re not focused on the things that we really want them to do.”

O’Rourke contrasted his vision for Texas with some of Gov. Greg Abbott’s “extremist policies,” such as the state’s abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy, permitless carry or his executive order banning mask mandates in public schools. In his words, O’Rourke said Abbott’s eagerness to shift his agenda further to the right only serves to “divide” Texans and prevent actions that many already agree with, like ensuring the reliability of the electrical grid, legalizing marijuana and expanding Medicaid. 

Further, O’Rourke maintained Abbott’s intent represented a “really small vision for such a big state,” and that the people of Texas possess the initiative to change that vision just as they took responsibility for recovery efforts after February’s unprecedented winter weather.

“When the electricity grid failed and those in power failed all of us, it was the people of Texas who were willing to put their differences behind them and get to work doing the job at hand, which meant helping our fellow Texans get through that crisis,” O’Rourke said. “We did this out of a sense of duty and responsibility to one another. Now imagine if the governor of Texas felt that same way. Well, there’s something that you and I can do about that.”

O’Rourke will need to tap back into the public enthusiasm that surrounded his 2018 U.S. Senate race, which he lost by a slim margin to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Abbott is seeking reelection for his third term as governor. Abbott’s campaign prepared for O’Rourke’s announcement by launching a preemptive attack advertisement entitled “Wrong Way O’Rourke,” infused with provocative quotes from his 2020 presidential campaign in which he voices support for a single-payer health care system, gun confiscation and the Green New Deal.

Since 2013, Abbott has accepted more than $120 million in political contributions — more money than any other governor in U.S. history, according to the Associated Press. Texas’ contentious 2018 Senate race between Cruz and O’Rourke resulted in a combined candidate spending of over $100 million between the two campaigns.

Abbott acknowledged O’Rourke’s announcement on Twitter by insisting his opponent was campaigning to “defund the police,” “kill good paying oil [and] gas jobs,” “allow chaotic open border policies,” “support the failing Biden agenda,” and “impose socialism.”

Abbott challenged O’Rourke to “bring it.” The filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates is Dec. 13, and the primary is scheduled for March 1, 2022, ahead of the general election next November.

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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