Beto O’Rourke is running for governor of Texas.
The former congressman, Senate candidate, and Democratic candidate for president announced on Monday that he intends to unseat Republican Governor Greg Abbott. “Together, we can push past the small and divisive politics that we see in Texas today — and get back to the big, bold vision that used to define Texas,” he wrote on Twitter. “A Texas big enough for all of us.”
I’m running for governor.
Together, we can push past the small and divisive politics that we see in Texas today — and get back to the big, bold vision that used to define Texas. A Texas big enough for all of us.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 15, 2021
He expounded on his decision to run in an interview with The Texas Tribune, calling out Abbott by name. “I’m running to serve the people of Texas, and I want to make sure that we have a governor that serves everyone, helps to bring this state together to do the really big things before us and get past the small, divisive politics and policies of Greg Abbott,” he said. “It is time for change.”
O’Rourke, who ran against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2018 as the Democratic nominee for Senate and subsequently launched a 2020 presidential campaign, also cited the storm last winter that turned deadly when many in the state lost power for days due to failures in the electrical grid.
“They were abandoned by those who were elected to serve and look out for them,” O’Rourke said in a video announcing his candidacy. “It’s a symptom of a much larger problem we have in Texas right now. Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving, paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas.”
Abbott has been an objectively terrible governor. His approach to Covid-19 began with downplaying the virus’ severity and then steadfastly refusing to do anything about it. When a freak storm hit Texas this winter and killed 210 people, Abbott went on Fox News to use the storm as a talking point in his campaign against the Green New Deal. He’s also been a champion of the state’s draconian abortion bounty law, which has all but shut down access to abortion by allowing people to sue anyone who helps a woman exercise her right to choose.
Abbott needs to go, but O’Rourke has yet to prove he can win the kind of race he launched Monday.
The Democrat has twice started runs with considerable fanfare and ended them with losses. In 2018, he raised $80 million for a run against Cruz, and while his three-point loss was far closer than other Democratic attempts at state-wide office, a “close loss” is worth exactly 0.0 Senate seats. (The close margin may also be an indictment of Cruz, whose particular brand of anti-charisma blends radical politics, breathtaking smugness, and relentless personal opportunism.)
O’Rourke’s presidential primary run was a disaster: His publicity way outpaced his polling and Beto dropped his bid months before the voting began.
Beto’s low returns on high expectations are not unique to the former El Paso representative. For a decade, if not longer, Texas has been Democrats’ unofficial motto has been, basically “We’ll get ’em next time” as the party continues to hope that the state will turn blue as its demographics continue to change.
So far, however, all such hopes have ended in tears. Before Beto, state lawmaker Wendy Davis rose to national fame in 2013 with an impassioned and tennis-shoe-clad defense of abortion rights, and announced she’d take on Abbott in a race to succeed outgoing governor Rick Perry. Her run started well but ended poorly: She lost to Abbott by 21 points. (If you’re looking to cheer yourself up after the depressing memory, you can watch Perry effectively torpedo his national political career by challenging himself to count to three and coming up one short.)
This time around, Beto is hoping that Texas Republicans’ increasingly radical lurch toward a MAGAfied version of extreme conservatism — coupled with Abbott’s incompetent management of a natural disaster and a pandemic — can galvanize a new coalition of Texas voters to embrace O’Rourke’s progressivism and snare Democrats their first statewide win in decades.