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Democrat 'Beto' O’Rourke announces he’s running for Texas governor

(The Center Square) – Former Democratic congressman and presidential candidate Robert "Beto" O’Rourke announced Monday that he’s running for governor of Texas.

A liberal Democrat, O’Rourke’s running in a red state feeling the economic pain of higher gas prices and other inflationary price increases to increased crime resulting from open borders.

He’s also running against an incumbent seeking to win a third term with a war chest of $25 million.

“It's not going to be easy. But it is possible," O'Rourke told The Associated Press before he officially announced his candidacy. “I do believe, very strongly, from listening to people in this state that they’re very unhappy with the direction that [Gov.] Greg Abbott has taken Texas.”

In his video announcement, O’Rourke cites the extensive power outage in February as a primary example of how those elected to serve Texans aren’t listening to them.

The grid failure left Texans in the cold and dark during a 100-year freeze – a problem that many warned about for years, including conservative Republicans like Sen. Bob Hall, yet leadership failed to act or heed Hall's and others’ warnings.

Abbott is facing formidable challengers in the Republican primary who argue he’s abandoned his conservative base by issuing unconstitutional mandates and lockdowns, killing jobs, and not banning vaccine mandates or other priorities through the legislative process.

Abbott and others in leadership have argued the past legislative session was one of the most conservative ever. Yet conservative critics point to a list of legislative priorities passed by state Republican delegates that they argue Abbott ignored.

Despite factions within the Republican Party in Texas, Abbott still leads his Republican challengers and O’Rourke in the polls.

A Dallas Morning News-UT Tyler poll conducted before Republican Lt. Col. Allen West announced he was running for governor showed Abbott leading Republican challenger, Dallas businessman and former state legislator, Don Huffines by 77% to 12% among primary voters.

Abbott leads O’Rourke by nine points in a University of Texas at Austin poll conducted October 22-31, with 46% of registered voters saying they’d vote for Abbott and 37% backing O’Rourke. He also leads O’Rourke in a September poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and University of Texas-Tyler by a margin of 42% to 37%.

Polling from the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation suggests there’s a dead heat between Abbott and O’Rourke.

O’Rourke says the February freeze is a symptom of a much larger problem in Texas.

“Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving and paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas,” he said. “And so they’re not focused on the things that we really want them to do, like making sure that we have a functioning electricity grid or that we’re creating the best jobs in America right here in Texas,” or expanding Medicaid or legalizing marijuana, he includes among a list of priorities.

In response to O’Rourke’s announcement, Huffines said, “Democrats are licking their chops at the opportunity to run against Greg Abbott because they know he’s a failed leader.”

He and West argue Abbott has failed to secure the Texas border, to cut skyrocketing property taxes, and to keep Texans’ lights on.

Abbott argues that reforms made by the legislature this year made the Texas power grid more reliable.

“Winterization is now required for all power generators,” he said the day before O’Rourke announced he was running. The Public Utilities Commission is “buying more power reserves, being more proactive than reactive," and Texas “has more power generation than ever,” he said.

While O’Rourke announced he was running for office, Abbott was at a news conference with a South Texan Democrat announcing he was switching to the Republican Party.

Texas Democrats living near the border are increasingly leaving the party or publicly expressing frustration with the Biden administration, which they argue has abandoned them. Texas law enforcement officials attribute an increase in crime and cartel violence to the surge in illegal immigration under Biden.

O’Rourke claims that electing him will “push past the small and divisive politics that we see in Texas today – and get back to the big, bold vision that used to define Texas.” He didn’t mention that it was his PAC that funded House Democrats absconding from their legislative duties by fleeing the state this summer, refusing to work with Republicans, and holding up legislative business for over a month, costing Texas taxpayers millions of dollars.

Conservatives argue that the issue Democrats absconded over – election reform – in some ways weakened election integrity. Prior to the changes made by Republicans, voter fraud was a felony in Texas. After the bill was signed into law by Abbott, the penalty for voter fraud was lowered to a misdemeanor.

Abbott actually “made it easier for Democrats to engage in voter fraud,” Huffines argues.

Still, O’Rourke would be worse, Abbott’s challengers argue, citing his position on abortion, claims to confiscate AR15s, and proposing an energy policy that would hurt the Texas oil and gas industry, costing jobs, among other policies.

O’Rourke joins three Democrats who previously announced they’re running: Larry Baggett, Michael Cooper and Deirdre Dickson-Gilbert.

It’s the third time O’Rourke’s will run for office in as many election cycles.

The former congressman ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary but dropped out eight months later. He also ran for the U.S. Senate against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and lost.

The primary election is March 1, 2022. Whoever wins the Republican and Democratic primaries will face off against each other and against a Green Party and Reform Party candidate.

The last Democratic governor of Texas was Ann Richards, the second female governor of the state. She was elected in 1990 and served from January 1991 to January 1995.

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