AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Greg Abbott has won a third term as Texas governor, defeating Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Abbott is Texas’ second longest-serving governor.

Abbott received 4,426,655 votes (54.81%) to O’Rourke’s 3,539,152 votes (43.82%). Libertarian Mark Tippetts received 81,660 votes (1.01%) and Green Party candidate Delilah Barrios got 28,499 votes (0.35%).

Pre-Election Day polling showed Abbott up between two and 13 percentage points. In his previous races in 2014 and 2018, Abbott won by 20.4% and 13.3%, respectively.

Throughout the campaign season, both candidates worked to mobilize their respective parties on issues like the economy, public safety, the U.S.-Mexico border and education.

In regard to border security, Abbott has touted initiatives under his signature policy, Operation Lone Star, which he started in March 2021 to help curb illegal immigration. O’Rourke wants to give migrants a path to citizenship and reform the family reunification system.  

Abbott has largely avoided the topic of abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, while O’Rourke and Democrats have honed in on their attacks against Texas Republicans for laws that limit access to the procedure to the point of abortion being virtually inaccessible in the Lone Star State. 

abbott won by 20.4% in 2014 and 13.3% in 2018
Abbott has won by double digits in past elections (KXAN Photo)

Polls largely favored Republicans over Democrats on the issue of border security and immigration.

The topic of gun violence gained renewed traction over the summer after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24. In the aftermath, Abbott has consistently said he believes solutions should be focused on mental health reform, not restricting the Second Amendment.

The governor’s campaign consistently attacked O’Rourke for previous stances on gun restrictions. During this campaign cycle, the Democrat focused on repealing Texas’ permitless carry law, raising the age limit needed to purchase AR-15 style weapons — often the firearm of choice in mass shootings — and closing the private sales background check loophole. 

Concern over Texas’ power grid arose after the February 2021 winter storm left millions of Texans without power for days, and the grid was minutes away from total collapse. At times, this issue gave momentum to the O’Rourke campaign, which has blamed the incumbent for the grid’s failure. O’Rourke has said the governor has not done enough to prevent future grid failure and proposed his own policies for fixing the grid. Abbott has pointed to a series of laws he signed to make the grid more effective. 

Overall, the Abbott campaign has worked to tie O’Rourke to President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings remain consistently low among Texans. As the challenger, O’Rourke has had to play defense, trying to make the case to voters that the state is not better off than when Abbott was first elected in 2015. 

The Abbott campaign hosted its election watch party in McAllen, an area in the politically contentious Rio Grande Valley — a longtime Democratic stronghold, which Republicans have been heavily competing for during this election cycle. O’Rourke hosted his election watch party in his hometown of El Paso, a district that elected him to Congress.

Governor’s race analysis

A victory for Abbott solidifies his place as Texas’ second-longest-serving governor and also strengthens him for a potential presidential run, according to State of Texas host Josh Hinkle. However, Abbott indicated in his victory speech he intended to serve out his gubernatorial term before considering another office.