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O'Rourke says Abbott is 'chaos' and 'corruption', kicking off multi-week campaign trek across Texas

The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful kicked off his 49-day Drive for Texas campaign — a 5,600-mile trek with stops across the state — in El Paso Tuesday night and pulled no punches in his verbal assault against incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

By Julián Aguilar, The Texas Newsroom

If Democrat Beto O’Rourke has held anything back during his months-long campaign to oust Republican Governor Greg Abbott from office, that ended Tuesday night in his hometown.

O’Rourke kicked off his 49-day Drive for Texas campaign — a multi-week, 5,600-mile trek across the state — in El Paso where he pulled no punches in his verbal assault against Abbott.

From gun laws to abortion access and the power grid to voting, nothing was off limits for O’Rourke as he laid into what he called the incumbent’s long track record of putting special interests ahead of the people of Texas.

“What is happening right now in this state, the headlines that are making news all over the world — that is not us. That is not who we are. That is not Texas, and it certainly is not El Paso at its best,” said O’Rourke, a former city council member and Congressman from El Paso.

A major focus of O’Rourke’s campaign has been on the state’s power grid and the 2021 power failure which claimed the lives of hundreds of Texans. The grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has been urging Texans to conserve power as the state grapples with the current heat wave.

“Just that story, what has happened to the grid under Greg Abbott’s watch, says everything that you need to know about this guy,” O’Rourke told supporters Tuesday. “He is chaos, he is corruption, he is cruelty and he is incompetence, and it doesn’t stop there.”

Recent polls indicate the race has tightened. A poll released last week by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs showed Abbott with a lead of five percentage points among likely voters.

Late last week, O’Rourke’s campaign announced it had  raised more than $27 million from late February to June, a record in Texas political fundraising.

O’Rourke also took Abbott to task on gun laws and told his hometown supporters that the governor failed to support any form of gun control following the 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 23 people dead. The alleged gunman wanted to ward of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas, authorities said. Instead of taking action, O’Rourke said, the Texas Legislature instead passed a “permit less carry” bill that expanded gun rights.

“The governor turned his back on them and faced forward to the NRA to take the donations and the support and the political points that he could win in the Republican primary at the cost of our lives,” he said.

O’Rourke then blasted Abbott for attending a fundraiser on May 24, the same day a gunman killed 19 children and two schoolteachers in a Uvalde elementary school.

“He could have gone there the night of [the shooting] but instead he drove 300 miles in the opposite direction to attend a fundraiser and raise resources for his campaign instead of being with the people who needed him most,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke’s statewide trip follows a similar pattern for the candidate. During his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate against Republican Ted Cruz, O’Rourke also made it a point to visit each of the state’s 254 counties. When asked why he thought the door-to-door, shoulder-to-shoulder approach would work this time around, O’Rourke said the mindset of voters is different four years later.

“The people who are Democrats, Independents, Republicans, they [want] something better. They see this guy in power who can’t keep the lights on, who has banned abortion completely with no exception for rape or incest, who after one mass shooting after another does nothing except make it easier for the wrong people to have guns,” he said. “People want change. The only way we can make it happen is by showing up for them. That’s why we’re literally going to every part of the state.”