Can Beto O’Rourke Free Texas From Gun-Humping GOP Gov. Greg Abbott?

State/Local Politics
Can Beto O’Rourke Free Texas From Gun-Humping GOP Gov. Greg Abbott?

We all know that Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sucks ass, but is it possible actual Texas voters are seeing the Beto-shaped light? Polls are tightening between the two-term incumbent and his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Abbott is also falling behind in fundraising, reporting $24.9 million in his last filing to O’Rourke’s $27.6 million.

According to the New York Times, Texas Democrats are “suddenly, improbably, perhaps unwisely” daring to hope they could send a Democrat to the governor’s mansion for the first time since Ann Richards, who was objectively awesome.

“It seems like some the worst things that are happening in this country have their roots in Texas,” said James Talarico, a Democratic state representative from north of Austin. “We’re seeing a renewed fighting spirit.”

State Rep. Talarico is right. Republicans regularly smear Democratic-run cities as hellholes that are literally on fire. However, under Abbott’s stewardship, mass shootings have occurred like sickening clockwork in Texas. There was the 2016 Dallas shooting, where five police officers were killed and nine others injured. The next year, a gunman murdered 26 people and wounded 22 others at the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A student at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, fatally shot eight students and two teachers in 2018, wounding 13 others. Twenty-three people died and 23 others were injured during the 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, and there was a spree shooting in Midland and Odessa just a few weeks later. 2021 brought a brief respite from mass shootings, but then there was the Uvalde massacre.

Texas seems like more of an "anarchist jurisdiction" than a few square blocks in Capitol Hill, Seattle.

PREVIOUSLY: F*ckin' Right Beto's Coming For Your F*ckin' Guns

Abbott and Texas Republicans' only apparent response to these senseless deaths is to blame Black Lives Matter, Barack Obama, single mothers, or implausibly, not enough guns in untrained civilian hands. There has been a mass shooting almost every year of Abbott’s administration, and he’s only made guns easier to purchase.

O’Rourke has hammered Abbott on his fundamental failure to keep Texans — especially children — safe. This likely resonates more than perceived “gun grabbing,” sort of the benign version of Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigning in 2021 on “parental rights.”

An estimated 246 Texans have frozen to death on Abbott’s watch. The governor has blamed President Joe Biden’s climate agenda or the Green New Deal, but these obvious lies insult the intelligence of voters who don’t flee to Cancun when their homes get chilly. When Texans faced further power grid uncertainty this winter, O’Rourke mocked Abbott’s incompetence: "The governor of the ninth largest economy on earth — the energy capital of the world — can't guarantee the power will stay on tomorrow. We need change.”

O’Rourke has kept up the pressure on Abbott while engaging the public with an optimistic message. Change is possible. We just need better management. According to Mark P. Jones, a poli sci professor at Rice University, Biden’s low approval ratings and high inflation are the Republicans’ “saving grace.” Otherwise, their gun-humping, abortion-banning extremism is political poison.

“[The Supreme Court overturning Roe] at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. Uvalde at the margins has hurt Republicans in Texas. The grid has hurt Republicans in Texas,”

Gun safety is a top issue among Hispanic women. During the 2018 Senate race, O’Rourke performed better with this key demo than Abbott’s opponent, Lupe Valdez. Sixty percent of white Texas women backed Ted Cruz for what we guess were compelling reasons. Maybe the loss of their bodily autonomy might convince them to give O’Rourke a second look.

According to a recent University of Houston poll, inflation, crime/public safety, economic growth, government spending/taxes, and healthcare costs rank as the most important issues for voters. The literal freedom of half the population is not a major driver in the election, but O’Rourke can leverage public safety and healthcare.

Of course, Abbott doesn’t need to curb stomp O’Rourke to keep his job. Cruz narrowly won in 2018 and wasn’t humbled in the least. He’s arguably become even more annoying, if possible. O’Rourke is pushing an electoral boulder up a hill, but he’s not breaking a sweat. You have to admire the campaign he’s running. The least we can do is keep hoping for a miracle.

[Texas Tribune / New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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