Texas governor’s race: Democrat Beto O’Rourke hopes to upset Greg Abbott’s bid for 3rd term

Austin, Texas– Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is seeking a record-breaking third term on Tuesday, while Democrat Beto O’Rourke is aiming for an upset in America’s biggest red state in one of the priciest midterm races in the US

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More than 5 million early votes had been cast ahead of Election Day in Texas, where anger over the Uvalde school shooting in May that killed 19 children and two teachers intensified an already heated contest that has pitted the campaigns of both candidates collectively spent more than $200 million.

Five months later, state police are still under pressure for not confronting the Robb Elementary School shooter sooner. O’Rourke said the shooting, one of the deadliest classroom attacks in US history, crystallized the stakes of the election as Abbott brushed off calls for tougher gun laws. O’Rourke has also tried to get voters to sign Abbott into an abortion ban that makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

But Abbott, 64, has remained impressive in a state where Republicans have won every governor’s race since 1994.

He has rallied his base around a record number of illegal border crossings from Mexico into the US, aggressively wooed Hispanic voters in South Texas, and seized on economic fears and recession fears that have been headwinds for Democrats nationally.

According to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of more than 3,200 voters, more than four in 10 Texas voters rank the economy and jobs as the country’s top issues. Almost eight out of ten rate the US economy as bad or not so good. Only about two-thirds say they are confident they can keep up with their spending.

Voters are sharply divided over abortion. They support or oppose a law that would guarantee access to legal abortion nationwide in roughly equal numbers. But about 8 in 10 say legal abortion should be allowed if pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Voters easily support Abbott’s decision to send migrants seeking asylum in the US to the northern Democratic states, with nearly 6 in 10 backing the move.

A victory for Abbott would bolster his position as a potential presidential nominee in 2024, secure his place as governor with the second-longest term in state history, and extend decades of GOP dominance.

O’Rourke launched one final campaign blitz through Dallas, San Antonio and Houston on Tuesday before heading home to await the results of the election in his hometown of El Paso. Abbott spent Tuesday’s election night in the southern border town of McAllen, underscoring the GOP’s growing confidence in a region that has long been a Democrat stronghold.

O’Rourke’s dogged challenge has reignited Democrat hopes while also addressing voters marred by the Uvalde shooting, the abortion ban and the deadly collapse of the state’s power grid in the winter of 2021. The former El Paso congressman has posed as a freshman start for Texas and a review of a GOP-controlled legislature while vowing to legalize marijuana and expand Medicaid.

Approximately 8 in 10 voters in Texas say the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which recognizes a constitutional right to abortion, was a factor in their votes. But only 1 in 10 say it is the country’s most important issue.

Four years after nearly winning a US Senate seat in Texas and raising his profile in the Democratic Party, O’Rourke, 50, is facing more skeptical voters. Abbott has portrayed him as a liberal crusader, and O’Rourke was forced to answer for positions he took when running for the White House, particularly his support of mandatory gun buybacks.

A day after the Uvalde shooting, O’Rourke interrupted an Abbott press conference and told him, “It’s at your expense,” alluding to the governor’s opposition to stricter gun control measures. For Republicans, the moment was a tasteless political stunt, but O’Rourke supporters saw it as an authentic expression of their anger.

During the early voting in a Dallas suburb, Deborah Thompson said she voted for all Democrats, including O’Rourke, out of concern that Republicans are threatening voting and abortion rights.

“I think that an 18-year-old girl who was raped should be able to have an abortion,” said the 56-year-old Richardson resident. “I’m not going back. I’m not going back to the 50’s… and I’m so angry about all of this.”

Janie Helms, a retiree, said concerns about inflation prompted her to vote for Abbott.

“I see him as a conservative who watches our money,” she said.

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Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg of Plano, Texas and Terry Tang of Phoenix contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://6abc.com/texas-midterm-elections-greg-abbott-beto-orourke-governors-race/12431456/ Texas governor’s race: Democrat Beto O’Rourke hopes to upset Greg Abbott’s bid for 3rd term

Alley Einstein

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