Is Beto O’Rourke testing the water for a challenge to Governor Greg Abbott in 2022? Maybe. Some banter back and forth between the two men on Thursday could be a preview of what is coming.
If Beto is publicly vying for attention from Texans with talk of thinking about running for governor in 2022, he likely has been having the conversation in private. The governorship of Texas is one office he hasn’t run for yet. He served three terms in the House of Representatives as a backbencher with no claim to any noteworthy legislation. That didn’t stop him from seeking a job promotion. He lost a race against the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz in 2018. Then he let his newfound celebrity and encouragement from liberals on both coasts guide him to run in the 2020 Democrat presidential primary. He failed to gain any traction and by November 2019, he was out of the race. Like Kamala Harris, he didn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses. So, all that is really left now is to run for governor.
Beto strikes me as a perpetual candidate. He is not content with his life and is always looking for more – in his case, a bigger political office. His ego won’t let him stop seeking the spotlight. So, he keeps planning a political comeback. He expects to keep failing up. Will the third time be the charm?
Governor Abbott is up for re-election in 2022. It will be his third term if he is successful. Frankly, there is little reason to think he will not be re-elected, at least as everything stands now. Things can always change between now and then but we are already battling a pandemic and job losses due to the plague, along with new attacks on the oil and gas industry thanks to President Biden, so it’s hard to imagine much more of a difficult time for the state. Abbott remains popular with Texas Republicans and so far there haven’t been rumblings of any significant challenge to his re-election from his own party.
O’Rourke is the best-known Democrat in the state after his previous runs for office. During the race against Cruz, he went into superstar territory as Texas Democrats dared to believe that they could finally win a statewide race. Texas Democrats have been shut out of statewide offices since 1994. O’Rourke soon captured the attention of the national party and the money poured into the race. Hollywood celebs were breathlessly begging Texans to register to vote and then show up to vote for Beto. It was wild, to say the least. He came within 3 points of winning against Cruz.
The Houston Chronicle published a piece Thursday on O’Rourke’s radio interview in El Paso, his hometown. He said he is thinking of challenging Abbott in 2022.
“You know what, it’s something I’m going to think about,” O’Rourke said in an exclusive interview on an El Paso radio station earlier this week.
And in case anyone missed the interview, supporters of a political action committee O’Rourke started called Powered By People is circulating it on social media.
The former congressman from El Paso, who lost a close race for U.S. Senate in 2018, told KLAQ host Buzz Adams that Texas has “suffered perhaps more than any other” state during the pandemic and criticized Gov. Greg Abbott for a “complete indifference” to helping local leaders try to save lives.
“I want to make sure we have someone in the highest office in our state who’s going to make sure that all of us are OK,” the 48-year-old O’Rourke said. “And especially those communities that so often don’t get the resources or attention or the help, like El Paso.”
Powered By People is a PAC formed by O’Rourke after he dropped out of the Democrat presidential primary. His focus since then has been to get Democrats elected to local and state offices.
Hours later, Governor Abbott was asked about Beto’s comments during a news conference in Odessa. Abbott dismissed the question by pointing out political positions that Beto holds are not favored by most Texas voters.
“You’re talking about a person who says they want to run for governor who said, ‘Heck yes,’ he’s gonna come and take your guns,” Abbott said, referring to O’Rourke’s 2019 embrace of a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. “Heck yes, he’s for open borders. Heck yes, he’s for killing the energy sector and fossil fuels in the state of Texas. I don’t think that’s gonna sell real well.”
You will not be surprised to know that Beto responded and went to Twitter to do so. He posted a thread of eight tweets to deliver his criticisms of Abbott.
“You know what doesn’t ‘sell well’ @GregAbbott_TX?” O’Rourke said. “The fact that 36,000 Texans have died from Covid. [You] have undermined public health and local leadership at every turn, and now too many of our family, friends and neighbors are dead because of it.”
O’Rourke ended by saying, “Whether or not I run, I will do everything in my power to elect a Governor who looks out for everyone, keeps Texans safe, answers to the people instead of the special interests & guarantees that we all have equal opportunity to achieve our best in life.”
Remember when Joe Biden said he’d make O’Rourke his “gun czar” during the primary? Beto is perfectly fine with the government going door to door to grab guns, you know. He’d be happy to head up that operation. Unfortunately for Beto, Biden hasn’t offered a position to him so he has some free time on his hands and can run for governor.
Governor Abbott won his last election in 2018 by 13 points. He has almost $40 million in his campaign war chest. At this point, Abbott doesn’t have very much to worry about, especially with Silicon Valley tech companies moving to Texas, along with other companies looking to escape the insanity in blue states.