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Beto O'Rourke set to run against Greg Abbott for Texas governor - report




  • In Politics
  • 2021-09-19 18:01:24Z
  • By The Guardian
Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters
Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters  

The former Democratic congressman Beto O'Rourke is set to mount a new campaign for major political office with a run for governor in Texas in 2022, Axios reported on Sunday.

Citing unnamed "Texas political operatives", the website said O'Rourke's challenge to the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, would be announced later this year.

A longtime adviser, David Wysong, told Axios "no decision has been made" but also said O'Rourke had been "making and receiving calls with people all over the state".

The Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey has also flirted with a challenge to Abbott, a hardline Republican who recently stoked liberal outrage by signing into law new voting restrictions and the most severe abortion law in the country.

Some Democrats fear a "centrist" run from McConaughey, the star of hit films including Gold and Dallas Buyers Club, could divide the anti-Abbott vote.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the state Democratic party, told Axios: "We hope [O'Rourke is] going to run. We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott."

The 48-year-old served three terms in the US House from an El Paso district before resigning to run for Senate in 2018.

He lost that race narrowly to Ted Cruz, then ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. A charismatic campaigner, he started the race strongly but quickly faded and dropped out before voting began.

He has maintained a national profile. This summer, O'Rourke played a prominent role in dramatic but ultimately fruitless efforts to stop Texas Republicans restricting voting access among minorities and other Democratic-leaning groups.

In 2020, Donald Trump won the state by the same margin as in 2016 while the Republican senator John Cornyn beat a touted challenger. Nonetheless, Texas demographics are shifting and it has become a tempting prize for Democrats.

In July this year, O'Rourke told the Guardian: "I don't know that we're a red state. I don't know that we're a conservative state. I don't know that we're a state that is focused on transgender girls' sports, or telling people what to do with their bodies.

"I think it is a minority, really, of the people and the voters in this state. It's just the majority aren't reflected because they aren't voting."

Abbott is running for a third term but looks vulnerable, particularly after presiding over a deadly failure of the state energy grid during a cold snap in February and opposing measures to combat Covid-19. Nearly 62,000 Texans have died.

Hinojosa told Axios Abbott's "prohibition against mask and vaccination mandates have not gone over well with Texans. And with the abortion law, Republicans have raised the anger level of Texas women higher than anyone has ever seen before."

On Sunday, the Dallas Morning News released a poll which showed support for Abbott "plunging, potentially leaving him vulnerable to the likes of McConaughey and O'Rourke".

The paper said 54% of respondents thought Texas was "on the wrong track" under Abbott, of whom 45% approved.

O'Rourke polled five points behind Abbott in a hypothetical match-up. McConaughey polled nine points ahead.

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