Former U.S. Congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidateannounced Monday that he is running for governor of Texas.
His campaign announcement video largely centered around the during a winter storm 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,” O’Rourke said. “We did this out of a sense of duty and responsibility to one another. Now imagine if the governor of Texas felt that same way. Well, there’s something that you and I can do about that.”
O’Rourke is hoping to capture the energy he brought to his 2018 U.S. Senate race, when he lost to Republican Senator Ted Cruz by about 2.5 percentage points. O’Rourke used the momentum from that campaign to launch a run for president in 2020, but after a huge fundraising launch, he dropped out a few months before the Iowa caucuses after his campaign never had significant support in the polls.
After that campaign ended, O’Rourke launched a political group focused on registering Texas voters and voting rights. He was a high-profile figure pushing back against Republican efforts to change Texas’ voting laws over the summer.
O’Rourke said the electricity grid failure and the response from state officials is “a symptom of a much larger problem that we have in Texas right now.”
“Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving and paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “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 that we have world class schools, or that we make progress on the things that most of us actually agree on.”
Republican Governor Greg Abbott tweeted Monday about O’Rourke’s positions on left, perhaps offering a preview of the race to come. Abbott said O’Rourke wants to “take your guns,” “defund the police” and supports the “failing Biden agenda.”
O’Rourke announced the campaign stops he’ll be making this week: Tuesday in San Antonio and Laredo, Wednesday in McAllen and Thursday in Corpus Christi. The stops are mainly in South Texas, where Democrats have been losing ground.
In an event with Abbott, longtime South Texas Democratic state Representative Ryan Guillen on Monday announced he would be switching parties to become a Republican. The local redistricting effort has made his district more favorable to the GOP, according to the Texas Tribune.
Abbott tweeted Monday that “as Dems move further left, they’re abandoning the people of South Texas & their values. Rep. Guillen’s decision to switch parties is indicative of a shifting landscape in South Texas.”
O’Rourke is the first major Democratic candidate to enter the race. Abbott, the Republican incumbent, is running for reelection, but will first have to defeat two Republicans challenging him from the right in the primary.
Former Congressman and Texas GOP Chair Allen West and businessman Don Huffines are challenging Abbott for the Republican nomination. Huffines has said that his candidacy has pushed Abbott to be more conservative on issues like banning private business COVID vaccine mandates.
Abbott will be a formidable challenge in both contests. Abbott’s campaign said it had more than $55 million cash on hand at the end of June. His campaign released an ad on Sunday attacking O’Rourke over his opposition to former President Trump’s border wall.
“The last thing Texans need is President Biden’s radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O’Rourke,” Mark Miner, the communications director for Texans for Greg Abbott, said in a statement on Monday. “The contrast for the direction of Texas couldn’t be clearer.”
Actor Matthew McConaughey has also talked about entering the race as a Democrat, but in recent interviews has suggested that he’s not sure if holding public office is where he can be most effective. In an interview with The New York Times last week, McConaughey said that in his house, “we go slow on vaccinations, even before Covid.”
A recent University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll showed Abbott leading O’Rourke by nine points in a hypothetical matchup. Abbott had a 43% approval rating in that poll and O’Rourke had a 35% favorability rating.