HomePoliticsTexas Governors Debate: Beto O'Rourke and Greg Abbott Discuss Guns, Abortion and...

Texas Governors Debate: Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott Discuss Guns, Abortion and Immigration


Weapons abortion. . The closely watched Texas gubernatorial race reached the final stretch Friday night in the first, and likely only, debate between the incumbent Republican governor. Greg Abbottand Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourkeas the candidates discussed some of the biggest issues facing voting in the state.

Weather recent polls have shown that O’Rourke trails Abbott by about 7 points, this could be the closest Texas gubernatorial race in years. Abbott won in 2014 by 20+ points and in 2018 by 13+ points.

Abbott and O’Rourke haven’t met in person since the day after the Uvalde school shootingwhen O’Rourke confronted Abbott during a press conference. O’Rourke has continued to criticize Abbott for his response to the shooting, even holding a press conference before the debate with the families of the shooting victims.

In the hour-long debate, Abbott was asked about his comments at that news conference the day after the Uvalde shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. In those comments, he said the shooting “could have been worse” and praised law enforcement’s response. Since then, leaked video of the shooting has shown that officers waited in the hallway for 73 minutes to enter and at times the screams of children could be heard.

A report of a special legislative committee found that 376 officers responded to the shooting and that the delay in confronting the gunman was the result of “systemic failures and extremely poor decision-making.”

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Beto O’Rourke, Greg Abbott

AP Photo/LM Otero, AP Photo/Eric Gay


Abbott has since said he was “misled” by “everyone in that room who provided me with the information about what the police did.”

“What that comment was based on was law enforcement information about all the children in all the other classrooms that evacuated during the time the shooter was on campus,” Abbott said. “However, what they didn’t tell me at the time was that there were dozens, if not more, of other law enforcement who were hanging around the hallway for over an hour not participating in the Columbine protocol, and they came in and immediately take out that shooter, which is what they were supposed to do. And because they didn’t, there needs to be accountability, not just for Peter Arredondobut also for local law enforcement.

Meanwhile, O’Rourke has countered that Abbott must be held accountable, asking him to call a special session of the state legislature to enact tougher gun laws. Abbott has said those laws would be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

O’Rourke made national headlines in 2019 when, while running for president, he said in a debate “Hell yeah, we’re gonna take your AR-15sHe appeared to back away from those statements, saying on Friday he was “about to make sure we made progress.”

“Those families I was just with from Uvalde want us to take action,” O’Rourke said. “This is common ground. I’ve heard from both Republicans and Democrats about this, we can agree on this: raising the age to 21, red flag law and universal background checks.”

Friday’s debate was hosted by Nexstar and took place at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, a crucial region for both candidates. There was no public. Given the location, it was not surprising that immigration was the first question in the debate. Abbott has tried to keep immigration front and center in this race, as it has garnered national headlines to transport immigrants to Washington, DC, New York and Chicago. While busing has drawn some criticism nationally, especially from Democrats, a UT/Texas Policy Project Survey September found that 80% of Texas Republicans and 52% of state voters overall supported the program.

Abbott defended the show Friday night, saying New York City Mayor Eric Adams never approached his office, though Adams has said he has. O’Rourke called the transportation a “political stunt.”

O’Rourke criticized Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” which involved the deployment of the National Guard to patrol the border and cost the state $4 billion. Abbott touted the show, though he said ideally he would spend “zero dollars” on Operation Lone Star and blamed President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, has not shied away from speaking on immigration but has tried to focus the race on abortion, gun laws and the 2021 blackout.

In 2021, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Abbott signed a law that prohibited abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. After the decision of the Supreme Court, an activation law came into force that prohibits abortion.

abbot has said the state would provide Plan B for victims of rape or incest, which it doubled down on Friday night, saying Plan B should be “readily available” to them. But the defenders told the Texas Tribune Earlier this month, Plan B is often not widely available, with one calling it “fairy tale thinking.”

O’Rourke said Friday that this election is a referendum on “reproductive freedom,” telling Texans “if you care about that, you should get out and vote.” 52% of likely voters said they would change Texas abortion laws to make the procedure more accessible, according to a Hispanic Policy Foundation of Texas/KVUE Survey.

Abbott, when asked if he had moved further to the right since taking office, said he has never personally supported abortion.

“Let’s look at the issues you raised,” Abbott said. “And that’s because, for one thing, as a Catholic, my wife and I have been pro-life all our lives. So much so, that it became even stronger when we adopted our daughter. The day she was born, I was the first person to hold her after she was born. And I’ve seen firsthand the power that adoption can have.”

Meanwhile, O’Rourke was asked about his recent unsuccessful runs for Senate in 2018 Y president in 2020, and if you are running out of call for public service or personal ambition. O’Rourke responded that it is an “honor” “to have the opportunity to serve others.”

Before the debate, a focus group told Nexstar that 40% supported Abbott, 27% supported O’Rourke, and 33% were undecided. After the debate, 50% supported O’Rourke, 43% supported Abbott, and 7% were undecided.

This is the only debate Abbott has agreed to, while O’Rourke has accepted several other invitations. Before the discussion, O’Rourke accused Abbott to ban the live hearing, even though the Abbott campaign told the Houston Chronicle that the conditions of the debate had been agreed upon in advance – without an audience.

Early voting in the state begins Oct. 24. September 2021, the GOP-led legislature passed an election bill that reduced early voting hours and instituted new ID requirements for mail-in ballots. This latter change in particular led to a higher rate of ballot rejection in the March primary election, with more than 24,000 votes left uncounted.





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