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Texas Gov. Candidate Beto O’Rourke Campaigns in Thematic Texas Tour

Featured, Government

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso). | Image by Ron Jenkins / Getty Images

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is currently embarking on a campaign that will take him to 20 Texas cities in 12 days, covering more than 2,100 miles.

His Texas circuit is entitled “Keeping the Lights On” in a bit of politically expedient nomenclature, as the road trip is intended to promote O’Rourke’s state energy-infrastructure proposals.

O’Rourke is also seeking to motivate voters to hold Governor Greg Abbott accountable for the winter storm of February 2021 that left millions of Texas residents without electricity and resulted in 246 winter-storm-related deaths, according to a December 2021 Texas Department of Health and Human Services Report.

The road trip began on February 4 in O’Rourke’s native El Paso. He has since made stops in Abilene, Odessa, and Wichita Falls. O’Rourke visited Denton on February 6; and, he appeared at Paul Quinn College in Dallas on February 7.

While in Denton, O’Rourke held a rally in a park with a backdrop of ice melting from the recent winter storm. This year, the weather event did not result in rolling blackouts and deaths as its predecessor did; nevertheless, O’Rourke urged attendees to hold Governor Abbott to account for the 2021 catastrophe.

“This didn’t have to be our fate. It didn’t have to be our fortune,” O’Rourke told rally supporters in Denton. “This is no act of God or Mother Nature. This is the failing of the person in the highest position of power in public trust.”

In response to those remarks, Campaign Spokesman for Governor Abbott, Mark Miner, said that O’Rourke was deliberately inciting psychological alarm to curry votes in his favor.

“It’s fearmongering by a desperate candidate who hasn’t unveiled one policy idea,” Miner dismissed of the candidate. “Clearly, [O’Rourke] is misleading the public.”

Miner pointed to fourteen measures of bipartisan legislation that Governor Abbott signed into law to bolster the power grid during freezing temperatures.

The official campaign Twitter account for Governor Abbott also countered the claims cast by O’Rourke: “Last week showed the resilience of the power grid thanks to the bipartisan solutions put forward by Gov., but the success of the reforms to the TX grid didn’t stop O’Rourke from fearmongering to prop up his flailing campaign.”

Texas Representative Jared Patterson of Frisco was also present in Denton and simultaneously held a “Save Texas Energy Jobs” rally in the same park. Supporters of Patterson interrupted O’Rourke with shouts through bullhorns of “Secure the Border,” among other Abbott-supporting sloganeering.

The following day at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, O’Rourke again spoke of the February 2021 power grid failure. He shared the story of meeting Steven Brown, a 24-year-old Dallas man who developed frostbite during the winter storm and had to have both legs amputated.

O’Rourke also contended with Governor Abbott on the controversy of increased power costs for consumers: “Because of [Governor Abbott’s] failure of leadership and failure to fix the grid moving forward, we are all paying higher utility bills — $20 to $50, in addition, each month. We call that the Abbott tax,” O’Rourke chimed.

O’Rourke was joined on stage at Paul Quinn by local party-friendly officials: Texas Senator Royce West (Dallas) and State Representatives Carl Sherman (DeSoto) and Rhetta Andrews Bowers (Rowlett).

Aside from the anti-Abbott comments, O’Rourke spoke about his plans for creating jobs, increasing teacher pay, expanding Medicare, and advancing voting rights: “I’m going to implement online voter registration, implement automatic voter registration when you turn 18, and we are going to open up more polling places when I’m governor,” O’Rourke announced.

O’Rourke testified against Senate Bill 1 (SB1), signed into law by Governor Abbott in September 2021. The bill made changes to the ways that state elections are conducted.

“Whether it’s ending 24-hour voting, or allowing free rein to poll watchers and making it harder to be able to vote by mail and an absentee ballot, this is going to make it tougher, not easier for those who should have a say in our elections,” O’Rourke messaged during a special session committee hearing in the Texas Congress.

Governor Abbott has maintained that the only intended purpose of SB1 is protecting election integrity: “One thing that all Texans can agree [on] is that we must have trust and confidence in our elections. The bill that I’m about to sign helps to achieve that goal. The law does, however, make it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast.”

When State Senator West made his remarks at Quinn, he called for a debate between Governor Abbott and O’Rourke at the historically Black college: “There should be a focus between the two candidates – to come to Paul Quinn and have a debate and allow all Texans to hear their positions and look at their records on issues important to African Americans in the state of Texas. O’Rourke immediately accepted the invitation. The Office of Governor Abbott offered a consideration of the request.

The “Keeping the Lights On” road trip concludes in Houston on February 15, the anniversary of the 2021 winter storm.

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