With little more than a month to go in Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the opposition to the Republican incumbent has landed a high-profile native Houstonian in its efforts.
Mothers Against Greg Abbott, a self-described “badass mamas’ PAC,” has enlisted Oscar-nominated Boyhood director Richard Linklater for a series of 31 videos. The ads will run every day in the run-up to the Nov. 8 midterms, in what the group is calling a “Vote Abbott Out Advent Calendar.”
Linklater is the filmmaker behind such cinematic classics as Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise and School of Rock, and his video series is aimed at helping the group spread its anti-Abbott message.
“Change only happens when enough people are paying attention and responding,” Linklater tells Rolling Stone. “We hope these testimonial portraits help more people pay attention and get engaged.”
The first spot, which launches Friday night, is shot in black and white and set to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, with a Texas mom belting out such lyrics as “And then I spent so many nights just thinking how you did us wrong. You sold us out. And Greg, now you’re on your way out. So listen here. Get off your rear. Or rather sit and watch while Beto takes your job from you this year. You had a chance to fix the grid. You could have fought for women’s right. But you took the gunman’s money and you turned off all our lights. So bye bye, Greg. Your time is done.” Other videos in the series lament Abbott’s record on such issues as education, healthcare, and child welfare.
“I was thrilled and really flattered that Richard reached out to work with us,” says Mothers Against Greg Abbott founder Nancy Thompson. “Richard is more than just a filmmaker. He is a storyteller who touches people’s hearts, and he has done a really good job of putting together a story of Texans who would like change. It takes a visionary like Richard to come along to put together a story that just hits in all of the right places at the right time.”
The director, who is a lifelong Texan and lives in Austin rather than Hollywood, says he was inspired to lend his auteur skills to the PAC because he was feeling “outrage over the incessant failures of Abbott’s administration.”
Adds Linklater: “And it’s not just Democrats who are fed up. Texans from all walks of life are realizing that this state is being mismanaged and that our very lives and liberties are on the line due to policies put in place and crises ignored such as women’s health, power grid deficiency and gun violence.”
Thompson founded Mothers Against Greg Abbott in August 2021 when her son was hospitalized with a virus and she feared that his return to school would be dangerous given Abbott’s reversal of the school mask mandate.
“The doctor was like, ‘This is really worrisome for your son to go back to school without a mask mandate,’” she recalls. “And I just felt like I had no options left. I just had to go and protest. So I went in front of the Capitol by myself, and I wrote down Mothers Against Greg Abbott on a sign and held the sign for two and a half hours.”
Word spread, and likeminded moms reached out, expressing frustration with the status quo, with the group now numbering more than 60,000 strong.
Linklater’s videos showcase a diverse array of everyday Texans calling out Abbott for his policies.
Linklater isn’t the only Hollywood filmmaker donating his time to the PAC. Texan Michelle Mower — who directed this year’s Lifetime sorority drama What Happened to My Sister? — also has created spots for the group, as has Chelsea Aldrich (You Beto Vote) and Jason Clemons (a Houston-based director and writer who done for NASA’s Johnson Space Center).
The Abbott resistance will need all the help it can get. The incumbent, who has held the governor’s seat for eight years, is leading O’Rourke in the polls. According to FiveThirtyEight’s latest tracking, Abbott holds a sizable lead over O’Rourke, with the Republican 50.1 percent to the challenger’s 42.9 percent.
Says Thompson: “I really hope that [Linklater’s series] resonates with a lot of Texans and that they they listen to him and they listen to the stories that he put together for this project and that they get out and vote for Democrats down the ballot.”