LOCKHART, Texas (Nexstar) — The race for Texas governor is hitting high gear. You’ve probably noticed more ads on air and online, as well as more phone calls and texts from the campaigns.

For Beto O’Rourke, the campaign has new urgency. A poll released last week from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University shows him behind Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. In the poll, Abbott has support from 49% of likely Texas voters. O’Rourke trails with 42% support.

O’Rourke faced an uphill battle from the start, like any Democrat running statewide. It has been nearly three decades since a Democrat last won a statewide election in Texas.

But no Democrat in recent years has campaigned like O’Rourke. In his 2018 bid for U.S. Senate against Republican Ted Cruz, O’Rourke traveled to every county in Texas. He’s taking a similar approach in this campaign. O’Rourke just wrapped up a seven-week long “Drive for Texas” that included stops in big cities and rural communities.

Along the way, O’Rourke has built up a network of volunteers. Now, he’s relying on them to mobilize untapped votes in every pocket of the state.

“The only way we will win is you. It’s not me,” O’Rourke told a crowd at a rally in Lockhart.

He’s tapping volunteers like Alice Wilson to help get Democratic-leaning voters to the polls, who may have stayed home in previous elections in a red state like Texas.

“This state has been Republican for so long that people don’t feel like their vote matters,” Wilson said at the Lockhart rally. “But this year, we know it does,” she added.

O’Rourke echoed that hope in an interview after the rally.

“The very people who’ve been drawn out of our democracy will provide the margin of victory on election night,” O’Rourke said.

In the interview following the Lockhart rally, O’Rourke made the case that many Texans support the ideas he’s touting on the campaign trail.

“People want to make sure we restore protections for every Texas woman to make her own decisions about her own body. That’s about as universal as we get,” O’Rourke said. He has released campaign ads critical of Gov. Abbott’s work to ban abortions in Texas, with no exception for cases of rape or incest.

O’Rourke says his positions reflect what he’s hearing from Texans as he campaigns around the state.

“Voters want to make sure that we prioritize the lives of our kids in our classrooms, they know that we can do better on reducing gun violence in Texas,” he said, highlighting an issue that became a key part of his campaign in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting.

O’Rourke said education is also on the minds of the people he’s spoken with in his travels across Texas.

“Other common issues I hear are investing in our public schools, stopping Greg Abbott’s effort to turn our tax dollars into vouchers and destroy public education in Texas,” O’Rourke said.

He added that health care is a big concern he’s hearing from voters.

“They want us to expand Medicaid, so more people can fill a prescription, go to a mental health care provider be healthy enough well enough to live to their full potential,” O’Rourke said. He believes these issues cut across party lines.

“There may be some things that we argue on, but on this much there’s common ground. And as governor, that’s what I’m going to pursue,” O’Rourke said near the end of the interview.


Nexstar extended the same interview opportunity to Gov. Abbott. His office sent a written statement.

The contrast in this race couldn’t be clearer. More Texans are working today than ever before. Gov. Abbott is running for re-election to secure the future of Texas through increased job creation and economic opportunity for all Texans. Expand energy production to lower gas prices, cut property taxes, secure the border and keep our communities safe by fully funding Texas law enforcement. In contrast, Beto O’Rourke supports open borders, defunding the police, raising property taxes and extreme energy policies.

Gov. Abbott’s office statement