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Former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke officially announces run for governor

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Former El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke officially announced on Monday that he's running for governor of Texas.

The Democrat released a two-minute long video on his Youtube channel to make the announcement. (You can watch it in the video player below.)

"I'm running for governor," he tweeted alongside the video announcement. "Together, we can 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. A Texas big enough for all of us."

In the two-minute video, O'Rourke called out Texas' leaders, referencing the issues with the state's power grid after a strong winter storm left millions without power in February.

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," he said. "We did that out of a sense of duty and responsibility to one another. Now imagine if the governor of Texas felt that same way."

He said Abbott and Republicans in Austin have also failed to tackle other issues, including expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana, improving the electricity grid and improving schools.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott responded to O'Rourke's candidacy with a tweet on Monday. The incumbent accused O'Rourke of wanting to defund the police, get rid of oil jobs, and take guns, among other things.

The gubernatorial race marks O’Rourke’s third campaign in the last four years. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in Texas, narrowly losing to Republican Ted Cruz in 2018. He also briefly ran for president, before dropping out of the race due to poor polling numbers.

According to the Texas Tribune, at least two other Democrats are running for governor. They include Michael Cooper, the president of the Beaumont NAACP who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, and Deirdre Gilbert, an educator from the Houston area.

In launching a campaign that many Democrats in Texas had identified as the party's only chance of denying Abbott a third term, O'Rourke's long-shot Senate campaign against Cruz had electrified Democrats in a state where the party has rarely been competitive for a generation.

He rose from little-known congressman to fundraising dynamo, setting what at the time was the all-time record for money raised for a Senate bid. And he did it with a relatively bare-bones campaign structure, mostly driving himself to campaign events across the state with two staffers and live-streaming it all on Facebook.

This time, though, O'Rourke faces longer odds. In 2018, with then-President Donald Trump in the White House, the political environment was extremely favorable for Democrats. In 2022, amid the Biden presidency, it's Republicans who hope the midterm electorate will sweep them into power in Washington and statehouses.

O'Rourke's support in Texas remains deep among Democratic loyalists, many of whom never took down their white-and-black "Beto" yard signs and bumper stickers. But with Democrats on defense across a much larger playing field, it's not clear he'll be able to tap into the same kind of national fundraising resources he did in 2018.

Still, O'Rourke has pointed himself toward a showdown with Abbott for months.

He has harshly criticized the governor's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the new law that effectively outlaws abortions in Texas, the state's restrictive new voting law and more.

In social media posts, emails to his political group Powered by People and live-streams, he has hammered Abbott. In March, live-streaming on Facebook from his mother's house, O'Rourke lambasted Abbott's handling of a winter storm that shut down huge portions of the Texas power grid and said the governor had taken actions that were "unconscionable, unforgivable," in ending his mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at full capacity.

"Our governor has checked out of the fight. He's surrendered to the virus. He's going to allow it to run rampant in this state," O'Rourke said in the video. "We are now on our own. But we are not on our own alone -- we are on our own together. And that might be some cold comfort, but let's take what we've got right now and let's work together."

In October, when Abbott banned all businesses in the state from imposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates, O'Rourke was similarly critical.

"Abbott's latest anti-science, anti-public health order is creating more chaos and more confusion," he said on Twitter. "Businesses need every tool at their disposal to survive the pandemic and keep workers and customers safe."

One question O'Rourke would face if he attempts another statewide run in Texas is whether his disappointing presidential run, and the positions he took during the campaign, would hurt him.

In the wake of a white supremacist gunman targeting Latinos and killing 23 people at El Paso's Cielo Vista Walmart in August 2019, O'Rourke said assault weapons should be outlawed and the government should confiscate those currently legally owned.

"Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," he said in a September 2019 presidential debate. "We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore."

But in Texas, where guns are ingrained in the state's culture and mythology, Republicans say those comments -- as well as progressive positions he took on immigration, including saying he would tear down the wall between Mexico and Texas, telling reporters it has failed to make his hometown on the border any safer -- would badly damage a future O'Rourke campaign.

Abbott has already used O'Rourke's comments from the presidential race on issues like gun control, the Green New Deal, health care reform, immigration and the Black Lives Matter movement -- generally out of context -- in an ad series he has posted on YouTube called "Wrong Way O'Rourke."

The Republican Governors Association similarly previewed those lines of attack against O'Rourke in a statement that pointed to policies he advocated as a presidential candidate.

"Texas voters have already rejected Beto O'Rourke for statewide office, and they'll do so again now that they know just how radical he really is," said RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. "Beto 2.0 vowed to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens, pledged to tear down physical barriers along the border, and supported regulations that would kill over a million jobs across the state and raise taxes and the cost of living on families and small businesses. There's no telling how far Beto 3.0 will go in his vain attempt to stay relevant after running out of promotions to chase in Washington."

(CNN and the Texas Tribune contributed to this report.)

Mauricio Casillas

El Paso native Mauricio Casillas co-anchors ABC-7’s Good Morning El Paso.

Comments

47 Comments

  1. You ran for senator and you lost. You ran for president and you last. Now you want to run for governor and you will loss. Why can’t you make your mins on which political office you want to run?

    Stop wasting time and money.

  2. The leftist media leaves out the fact that he already lost 3 times not 2. He failed to flip the Texas House Blue last year. Instead blue districts were flipped red. I’ll bet he will not even win the Democrat Primary for Governor.

  3. the latest survey from the University of Texas at Austin and The Texas Tribune, just 35% of voters rated O’Rourke favorably, while 50% rated him unfavorably.
    char liars hope for communism down in flames.

  4. If anyone wonders why this loser wants to be elected just think of the10 Trillion infrastructure that Joe Crow biden just signed. beto wants in on the billions of dollars that demoKKKrats will receive on kickbacks. That’s what demoKKKrats are expecting. Why else be in politics? To protect this country? 🤣😂🤣😂🤣

  5. Most of el juarez will STUPIDLY vote for this P.o..s, but he won’t have enough throughout the state. His views, especially on the 2nd will send him back. O’DORK=LOSER

  6. He’s no more than the spoiled child spawned from a tax evader. He vacations touring Texas and the Country on stupid people’s money. He’so stupid biden did’nt even want him for his Administration and saying a lot

  7. Robert Francis O’Rourke or better known as the Village Idiot from El Paso. He was a failure as a Congressman, he’s done nothing on his own it’s always daddy in laws money or in his ignorant college days it was daddies money and his tax evader moms money later

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