Texas newspaper editorial explains why Beto O’Rourke is Democrats’ best chance in Lone Star gubernatorial race
Although former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign failed to take off, the El Paso Democrat has a track record in Texas politics. O’Rourke came within striking distance of Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas’ U.S. Senate race in 2018 — not an easy thing for a Democrat to do in that light red state. And the Austin American-Statesman’s editorial board, in an editorial published on February 21, argues that O’Rourke is the Democrat best equipped to take on a Republican in Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial race.
It remains to be seen who will win the Democratic and Republican nominations in that race. Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is facing some primary challenges from far-right Republicans who claim that he isn’t MAGA enough, which is ironic in light of the fact that former President Donald Trump has endorsed him. And on the Democratic side, O’Rourke appears to have a good shot at winning his party’s nomination.
“When Beto O’Rourke ran for U.S. Senate against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz four years ago,” the Statesman’s editorial board explains, “he generated fawning national headlines, comparisons to JFK, and the adoration of Texas Democrats who saw him as the potential savior their party desperately needed. After two failed election campaigns, including the hard-fought Senate contest and an aborted run for president in 2020, O’Rourke’s once-shining star has noticeably dimmed, though the former three-term congressman from El Paso remains highly popular among state Democrats."
The Stateman’s editorial board continues, “A University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll last week showed overwhelming Democratic support for O’Rourke in this primary, with 93% of verified primary voters backing him over former journalist Joy Diaz, auto executive Michael Cooper, former public utility consultant Rich Wakeland and Inocencio 'Inno' Barrientez.”
The Statesman goes on to lay out some reasons why it believes that O’Rourke, if he receives the Democratic nomination, would be the most competitive against a Republican in the general election.
“O'Rourke's platform addresses core Democratic values — reducing obstacles to voting, expanding Medicaid and high-paying union jobs, improving health care and housing for veterans, and enforcing pollution laws, for example,” the Statesman’s editorial board argues. “This should appeal to Texans who feel they've been left behind by Abbott's more divisive, highly partisan policies. While some might question the strength of the Democratic field in the governor's race, O'Rourke is the best-positioned candidate — and we recommend Democrats vote for him in the March 1 primary.”
O’Rourke has been slamming Abbott over his response to Texas’ cold snap/blackout crisis of February 2021, which found millions of Texans without heat or electricity during freezing temperatures. The Statesman believes that O’Rourke is overemphasizing that complaint, arguing that he needs to broaden his campaign instead of being “one-dimensional.”
Regardless, the publication stresses that O’Rourke can overcome that deficiency and is the Democrat who would be the strongest against a Republican in the general election.
“O'Rourke might not have the same mass appeal he once did, but he remains a galvanizing figure in Democratic politics,” the Stateman’s editorial board writes. “Democrats should put him on the ballot for governor in November.”
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