Beto O’Rourke Defeats Greg Abbott At Texas Governor Debate

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Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott and the Democratic challenger hoping to unseat him in this year’s governor’s race in the state, Beto O’Rourke, faced each other in a Friday night debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. It’s the only scheduled debate.

Polling suggests Abbott maintains a slight lead in the state ahead of November, although O’Rourke and his campaign are focusing on issues that are documented to matter to, quite simply, a lot of people, like gun safety measures and reproductive rights. Abbott, who is running for a third term as governor, has presided over the implementation of harsh restrictions on abortion that are active in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, including a ban on the procedure throughout the entirety of pregnancy with rare exceptions that makes performing one in prohibited cases a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Abbott also signed a measure allowing the permitless carry of handguns in the state by Texans without legal impediments to carrying that sort of weapon. Abbott’s record on gun measures is under even greater scrutiny following this year’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“What we just heard from the governor is what we’re likely to hear over the course of this debate,” O’Rourke said during a discussion in the debate about issues related to immigration. “He’s going to blame people like President Biden. He’s going to try to lie about my record, and he’s going to distract from his failures, whether it’s his failure to keep the lights on in the grid, his failure to address school shootings or his failure in immigration.” On guns, O’Rourke also criticized Abbott for, through his inaction on demands for a special state legislative session, delaying action on guns after the Uvalde shooting. “If it’s an emergency, call a special session now,” O’Rourke said. “Why wait until the next year?”

“I want every parent out there to know that the lives of your children are more important to me than the NRA or any special interests or any other political consideration,” O’Rourke added on Friday. “I will prioritize them ahead of everything else.” Could Abbott credibly say the same? A message from the governor aired at a Houston convention of the National Rifle Association soon after the Uvalde shooting. What did he prioritize? O’Rourke, it’s worth noting, participated in protests outside that convention. When questions arrived at abortion, O’Rourke indicated he would support a return to the standards established under Roe, which persisted for decades before the currently reigning conservative majority decided otherwise.

“This election is about reproductive freedom. If you care about this, you need to turn out and vote,” O’Rourke added. “I will fight to make sure that every woman in Texas can make her own decisions about her own body, her own future and her own health care.” Results from a Friday focus group indicated that most of the undecided voters went with O’Rourke after watching the debate, while Abbott’s portion of the group shifted barely upwards. At the end, O’Rourke’s share of the group’s support was above the governor.