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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.