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Democrat Beto O’Rourke launches run for Texas governor
Former congressman from El Paso decides to challenge Republican Governor Greg Abbott after failed bids for U.S. Senate, president
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
EL PASO (CFP) — Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has announced he will run for governor of Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile candidate in their quest to unseat Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
In a video announcing his candidacy posted November 15, O’Rourke charged that “those in a position of public trust have stopped listening to, serving and paying attention to, and trusting the people of Texas.”
“They’re not focused on the things we want them to do,” he said. “Instead, they’re focused on the kind of extremist policies around abortion, or permitless carry, or even our schools that really only divide us.”
O’Rourke, 49, represented El Paso in the U.S. House from 2013 to 2019, giving up his safe seat to make a run against Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018.
In that race, he proved to be a prodigious fundraiser, raising $80 million, almost twice as much as Cruz. But he lost by more than 200,000 votes in what was a stellar year nationally for Democrats.
Based on the national profile he built in the Senate race, O’Rourke ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. But his campaign sputtered, and he pulled out of the race months before the Iowa caucuses.
During his White House run, O’Rourke made a comment that may come back to haunt him in gun-loving Texas, telling a debate audience that, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”
Indeed, shortly after O’Rourke announced his run for governor, Abbott took to Twitter to charge that O’Rourke wants to “take your guns,” ending with a two-word retort to his candidacy: “Bring it.”
Abbott, 64, is seeking his third term as governor of Texas, a state where governors are not term limited. While he won by more than 1 million votes for years ago, this time around he is now facing a competitive primary against two candidates running at him from the right, former GOP state chair Allen West and former State Senator Don Huffines from Dallas.
Abbott has run into political resistance for COVID-19 mitigation measures he imposed during the worst phases of the pandemic. However, more recently, he has led the charge against mask wearing in public schools and vaccine mandates for public agencies and even private businesses.
The wildcard in the race is Hollywood actor and native Texan Matthew McConaughey, who has been publicly toying with a run for governor. At this point, it remains unclear if he would run as a Democrat or an independent or enter the Republican primary, where nine candidates are already running.
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Field set for bellweather U.S. House race in Florida
Republican David Jolly wins primary and will face Democrat Alex Sink in March 11 special election in the 13th District
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CFP) — Republican lobbyist David Jolly has defeated two other GOP rivals to claim his party’s nomination for the open 13th District U.S. House seat in Florida, which Democrats have high hopes of capturing in a March 11 special election.
Jolly, 41, won 45 percent of the vote in the January 14 primary, beating out Florida State Rep. Kathleen Peters and retired Marine Corps General Mark Bircher. He will now face Democrat Alex Sink in the special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, who died in October.
The district, which takes in most of Pinellas County, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater, is one of just three House seats in the South that President Barack Obama carried in 2012.
Democrats have high hopes that Sink, the party’s nominee for governor in 2010, will be able to flip the seat, which Young, an institution in Tampa Bay-area politics, had held since 1970.
Jolly is a former aide to Young, who left Capitol Hill to become a lobbyist. Peters made his lobbying an issue during the campaign, painting him as a Washington insider.
The race also divided Young’s family. His widow, Beverly, supported Jolly, but his son, Bill Young II, backed Peters.
Bircher had the support of Allen West, a Tea Party favorite and former congressman from Palm Beach County.
Peters came in second, with 31 percent; Bircher, third, with 24 percent.
Sink, 65, a former bank executive, was elected as Florida’s chief financial officer in 2006. In 2010, she ran for governor, narrowly losing to Republican Rick Scott.
Earlier this year, Sink decided against a rematch with Scott but decided to for the 13th District seat after Young’s death, even though at the time she lived outside the district in neighboring Hillsborough County.
Despite parachuting into the district, Sink avoided a primary fight after St. Petersburg attorney Jessica Ehrlich dropped out of the race and other Pinellas Democrats opted not to run.
Given Obama’s victory in the district, and the fact that Sink carried Pinellas County in her race for governor, Democrats are hoping to make a pickup.
The outcome in such a closely divided bellweather district may be an early indication of how much problems with the rollout of Obamacare have hurt Democrats ahead of the 2014 elections.