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Watch Live: Abbott and O'Rourke debate in only matchup ahead of November election

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke's only debate in this year's gubernatorial race is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

By Julián Aguilar | The Texas Newsroom

The live debate from the Rio Grande Valley takes place as O’Rourke continues to trail in the polls

Texas voters will get their first and only chance to watch the candidates for Texas governor go head-to-head Friday night as incumbent Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke debate live from the Rio Grande Valley.

The debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is hosted by NEXSTAR media group and will begin at 7 pm CST. It’s the only debate both camps have agreed to, despite O’Rourke’s campaign asking for more face-to-face contests in a matchup that’s garnered the most attention of all the statewide races on the ballot in November.

Early voting begins Monday, October 24 and runs through Friday, November 4. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.

The gubernatorial debate will be hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno, and the panel of journalists asking questions include Sally Hernandez of KXAN, Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News, and Steve Spriester of KSAT San Antonio, KXAN  reported.

O’Rourke, a former city council member and congressman from El Paso, is looking to be the first Democrat elected to a statewide office in Texas since the mid-1990s. Gov. Abbott was first elected to the position in 2014 and is seeking his third term. He was previously the state’s attorney general.

Recent polling indicates O’Rourke is still the underdog. A Quinnipiac University  poll released Wednesday showed that 53% of likely voters plan to cast their ballot for the incumbent while 46% said they support O’Rourke.

Abbott has made border security a main theme of his campaign and has painted O’Rourke as a standard bearer of what Republicans call President Joe Biden’s “open-border” policies. O’Rourke’s camp has hit Abbott on gun control, an issue which was thrust into the headlines after another mass shooting in Texas — In May a gunman killed 19 children and two schoolteachers at a Uvalde elementary school. Access to abortion is another key issue that separates the candidates.

Both campaigns have events planned around Friday's debate. O’Rourke will meet families from Uvalde who have been pressuring Abbott to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to address gun reform, specifically raising the age to purchase an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21. That event will be held in Edinburg at 1 pm Friday. Abbott will meet with supporters at a watch party in McAllen immediately after the debate. The next day, he’ll speak at the Texans for Greg Abbott and Texas Victory Weekend breakfast in Harlingen.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.