Beto O’Rourke launches bid to be governor of Texas

Bid is second attempt by Beto O’Rourke for statewide office

John Bowden
Monday 15 November 2021 17:02
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Poll shows Greg Abbott with 9-point lead over Beto O'Rourke in potential matchup
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One of the most prominent Democrats from Texas has thrown his hat in for the 2022 Texas governor’s race, ending months of speculation over whether he will run.

Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who launched two unsuccessful bids for the Senate and White House after leaving Congress, announced his bid for governor on Monday in an interview with Texas Monthly.

Mr O’Rourke will face off against Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor who sits on a massive campaign war chest and has emerged as a leader among conservatives aiming to resist public health measures implemented by the federal government to stop Covid-19, including the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

“I want to serve this state and try to bring the people of Texas together to do some of the really big work that is before us and get past this smallness and divisiveness that Greg Abbott has brought to Texas,” he said in the interview, which published Monday morning.

Mr O’Rourke is likely to focus much on issues of local importance, citing Mr Abbott’s management of the state power grid during brutal winter storms several times during his interview while touching on other topics including Texas’s Covid-19 response and gun deaths in the state.

He is certain to face attacks from the conservative governor on his full-hearted embrace of gun control measures during his 2020 bid for the White House, which ended after garnering little more than a flashy Vanity Fair cover. He also was hit on the issues of environmental policy and healthcare in an ad released by the governor last month.

But in his interview, the former Senate and presidential candidate indicated that he thought Mr Abbott’s own record would force the race to be a referendum on the Republican governor’s leadership.

“I don’t know how much any candidate is going to have to do to convince the people of Texas that Greg Abbott has failed them as governor,” Mr O’Rourke told Texas Monthly.

“By one report, seven hundred people were killed due to his mismanagement of the power grid. And in the legislative session that followed, he did nothing meaningful to prepare us for the next winter storm or the next test of our electricity grid. His bungled response to COVID has resulted in more than seventy-one thousand Texans dead so far, and counting,” he added, before launching into attacks on Mr Abbott’s management of state schools and the quality of education in the state.

Mr O’Rourke first won widespread national acclaim within the Democratic Party after leaving the House to take on Sen Ted Cruz, a reviled enemy of the left, in the state US Senate election. He lost, but came within three percentage points of victory in the final count, stunning many who assumed that the state remained a bastion of GOP power.

He faced criticism from some, however, for his decision to launch a long-shot presidential bid in 2020 amid a very crowded Democratic field instead of facing off against Sen John Cornyn, the state’s other Republican senator, who was up for reelection that year. Mr Cornyn would go on to be reelected over MJ Hegar, a political newcomer, by almost 10 points.

Mr O’Rourke agreed with a reporter’s assumption in the interview on Monday that he faced an uphill battle to unseat Mr Abbott.

“I think you’re trying to say this is not going to be easy. I agree with you,” said the candidate.

Of his strategy, he added: “I want to bring even more people in and I really want to make sure that it is not Democrats versus Republicans. Not only is that not a winning strategy for me as a candidate, that’s not a winning strategy for us as a state or for us as a country. It’s got to be about how we make this state better for all Texans.”

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