Former congressman, Democratic presidential candidate, and Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke announced Monday that he is running for governor of Texas, setting himself up for a potential 2022 general election battle with incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I’m running for governor,” O’Rourke said in a video announcement Monday.
“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 added in a tweet.
O’Rourke enters a Democratic primary field that did not yet include any high-profile names. Abbot, meanwhile, will have to fend off primary challenges from former Texas GOP chairman Allen West and former state Sen. Don Huffines.
O’Rourke, in his announcement video, attacked Texas Republicans on a number of issues, including the catastrophic power grid failures last winter.
“This past February when the electricity grid failed and millions of our fellow Texans were without power … they were abandoned by those who were elected to serve and look out for them,” he said. “Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving, paying attention to, and trusting the people of Texas.”
Republicans, meanwhile, dismissed the idea that the perennial candidate has a chance of being the state’s next governor.
“Texas voters have already rejected Beto O’Rourke for statewide office, and they’ll do so again now that they know just how radical he really is,” Republican Governors Association spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement.
“Beto 2.0 vowed to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens, pledged to tear down physical barriers along the border, and supported regulations that would kill over a million jobs across the state and raise taxes and the cost of living on families and small businesses,” she added. “There’s no telling how far Beto 3.0 will go in his vain attempt to stay relevant after running out of promotions to chase in Washington.”
A day ahead of O’Rourke’s announcement, Abbott’s reelection campaign gave a taste of things to come in a statewide digital ad in Texas that targets O’Rourke over his stance on the combustible issues of immigration and border security.
The spot starts with a clip of O’Rourke in 2019, during his presidential campaign, saying “we don’t need any walls to solve a problem that we do not have.”
Longtime Abbott political consultant David Carney told Fox News that O’Rourke’s stances on immigration, gun control, and other issues, is out of step with most Texans. “He’s a huge advocate for the green new deal,” Carney added.
Carney added that O’Rourke would “be competitive. He’ll raise lots of money from across the country. But we are not the Ted Cruz campaign. We tend to take him very seriously and deal with him.”
O’Rourke already appears to be getting support from the Democratic establishment. The Democratic Governors Association backed O’Rourke almost immediately after the announcement went live Monday.
“.@BetoORourke has been fighting for Texans for years, galvanizing citizens and fighting against the GOP’s outrageous voter suppression efforts and restrictions on reproductive rights,” the DGA said in a tweet. “Now, we’re ready to help him become Texas’s next governor.”
The DGA also has a fundraising pop up for O’Rourke on the landing page for its website and is already pushing a digital ad to support him.
Republicans appear to have a significant advantage going into the 2022 Texas governor race. The state favored former President Donald Trump by about six percentage points in the 2020 election, and since then Democrats have struggled, between President Biden’s low approval ratings Terry McAuliffe’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial election, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s extremely narrow victory in a race that was not expected to be close.