Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced Monday that he is running for governor of Texas, hoping to square off against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year.
Mr. O’Rourke, a Democrat who lost bids for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and president in 2020, told supporters in an email that he wants to unite the state against what he called “fringe policies” on abortion and the Second Amendment.
“I am running for governor to serve ALL of the people of Texas,” he said. “I believe that the only way we are going to achieve great things for this state is by looking out for each other and moving forward together.”
Mr. Abbott said on Twitter that Mr. O’Rourke wants to “take your guns” and “defund the police.”
“The last thing Texans need is President Biden’s radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O’Rourke,” said Abbott spokesman Mark Miner.
Republicans said Mr. O’Rourke is already a loser statewide in Texas.
“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,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association. “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. 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.”
In a campaign video, Mr. O’Rourke pointed to the state’s electrical grid failure last winter as an example of incompetence by Mr. Abbott‘s administration.
“This past February when the electricity grid failed and millions of fellow Texans were without power, which meant that the lights wouldn’t turn on, the heat wouldn’t run, and pretty soon their pipes froze and the water stopped flowing, they were abandoned by those who are elected to serve and look out for them,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “It’s a symptom of a much larger problem in Texas right now, those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving and paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas.”
He said Republican leaders are focused “on the kind of extremist policies around abortion or permitless carry or even in our schools that really only divide us and keep us apart and stop us from working together on the truly big things that we want to achieve for one another.”
Mr. O’Rourke served three terms in the House before losing to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. He also sought the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020, but dropped out of the campaign in November 2019, before any primaries were held.
He will make his first campaign stops this week primarily in south Texas, where Republicans have been making gains. Mr. Abbott held an event Monday with longtime South Texas Democratic state Rep. Ryan Guillen, who announced he is switching parties to join the GOP.
“As Dems move further left, they’re abandoning the people of South Texas & their values,” Mr. Abbott tweeted. “Rep. Guillen’s decision to switch parties is indicative of a shifting landscape in South Texas.”
A recent poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune found 46% of registered voters favoring Mr. Abbott, with 37% supporting Mr. O’Rourke. The survey was taken in October and released this month before Mr. O’Rourke announced his candidacy.
But the poll also found that 48% of those surveyed disapprove of Mr. Abbott‘s job performance, while 43% approve. The poll said it had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.