The liberal former El Paso congressman who challenged Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in 2018 could be back for round two in a Texas statewide election. After failing to establish himself as a legitimate contender for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination, many Democrat leaders in Texas believe Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke might set his sights on the governor’s mansion.
“We hope he’s going to run,” said Texas Democrat Party of Texas Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement to Axios. “We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott, because he’s vulnerable.”
It is no secret that Democrats have been pouring resources into Texas elections in a coordinated effort to turn the Republican stronghold blue for the first time in over two decades. After his 2018 senate race and 2020 bid for president, O’Rourke has acquired perhaps the two most important things in any election: money and name recognition.
In 2018, O’Rourke came dangerously close to unseating incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, only losing by around 215,000 votes. This narrow defeat invigorated Democrat efforts in Texas. Now that the state Legislature has passed the election integrity bill and Heartbeat Act into law, Texas Democrats seem more impassioned than ever before.
He then followed up his Senate campaign with a failed bid for president, taking a hard left turn in the Democrat presidential primaries in 2020. During the failed campaign, O’Rourke notoriously tweeted, “Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15,” in response to questions about his support of gun control measures.
O’Rourke may very well attempt to take advantage of the volatile swarm of motivated Texas Democrats in a bid for governor in 2022. Democrat leaders from around the state claimed that O’Rourke informed them he is “seriously considering” running against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, according to The New York Times.
The Bigger Picture
The 87th Legislature commenced on Monday for their third special session, where they have been tasked with redrawing the political boundary lines in Texas based on 2020 census data. O’Rourke will announce any official bid for the governor’s race before this process has concluded.
In the event that the new district lines are challenged in the courts, there are provisions on the table to postpone the gubernatorial primary elections until the districts can be confirmed.
With Abbott facing several primary challengers, it remains to be seen if Texas Republicans support the incumbent, desire a fresh conservative voice in Austin, or if 2022 will finally be the year for Texas Democrats.