EL PASO, Texas (KXAN) — Former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke said he may enter the race to unseat Gov. Greg Abbott from the top elected position in Texas next year.
During a radio interview on KLAQ’s “The Buzz Adams Morning Show” in El Paso, O’Rourke stated for the first time publicly that he’s considering a run for governor.
“You know what, it’s something I’m going to think about,” he said close to the end of the 15-minute interview.
O’Rourke suggested Gov. Abbott’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic may affect his own thinking about getting into the race.
“This state has suffered perhaps more than any other in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. It is particularly galling to me…that El Paso has in one of the hardest-hit states was, if not is, the hardest-hit city,” O’Rourke said. “So many people dying so quickly that you set up 10 mobile morgues. You have to call in the National Guard to haul the dead bodies, and you have a complete indifference on the part of Gov. Greg Abbott to what local leadership, including our county judge, Judge Samaniego, are trying to do to literally save the lives of the people in our lives.”
After a roundtable Thursday about the oil and gas industry, Abbott responded to a reporter’s question about what he thought of a potential challenge from O’Rourke.
“You’re talking about a person who says they want to run for governor who said, heck yes, he’s going to come and take your guns. Heck yes, he’s for open borders. Heck yes, he’s for killing the energy sector and fossil fuels in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “I don’t think that’s going to sell real well.”
O’Rourke later responded to the governor’s comments with an eight-part Twitter thread that could serve as a preview of a possible head-to-head contest between the two men next year.
The first tweet read, “You know what doesn’t ‘sell well’ @GregAbbott_TX? The fact that 36,000 Texans have died from Covid. Your have undermined public health and local leadership at every turn, and now too many of our family, friends and neighbors are dead because of it.”
O’Rourke continued, saying, “If you’d followed the science instead of the polling from the start, we could have contained Covid, saved lives and let everyone get back to work. More than 4 million unemployment claims and too many businesses sidelined because you couldn’t do the right thing.”
O’Rourke, a Democrat, gained national attention when he narrowly lost the election to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, finishing two percentage points behind the Republican incumbent. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination and ended up endorsing Joe Biden’s candidacy.
Late last year, Texas State University confirmed O’Rourke would begin teaching a Texas politics class during the spring 2021 semester — news which the student-run newspaper The University Star first reported. The University of Texas at Austin also shared O’Rourke would teach a seminar at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Regarding a potential gubernatorial bid, O’Rourke explained further who he said should occupy that office in Texas.
“I want to make sure we have someone in the highest office in our state who’s going to make sure that all of us are okay and especially those communities that so often don’t get the resources or attention or the help, like El Paso,” he said. “Whether I’m a candidate for governor or I support someone who’s a candidate for governor, I want to make sure we have excellence in leadership and that that excellence goes to every single part of the state, including ours.”
According to reporting from The Texas Tribune, Abbott has said he is “100%” running for reelection but more recently breathed new life into long-lingering rumors he is thinking about a White House run. After 2022, Abbott said in a recent radio interview, “We’ll see what happens.”
Speculation, however, exists that Abbott may face a primary challenger within his own party from the Texas GOP chairman, Allen West. On the Democratic side, Julián Castro has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.