East Texas Republicans, Democrats react to Beto O’Rourke running for governor

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Beto O’Rourke joined the Texas gubernatorial race on Monday, Nov. 15.

Instead of riding a blue wave nationally, he will probably be fighting a red wave right here in the State of Texas.

O’Rourke was the star of the Texas Democratic party when he ran against Ted Cruz in 2018. Though this time, the campaign will be on a whole new playing field.

According to a University of Texas, Texas Tribune poll from October, O’Rourke is already at a 9 point disadvantage against Governor Greg Abbott.  

“In the last couple of months since the summer, O’Rourke’s favorables have been at 34% in September or 31% in July, compared to 42% who would have an unfavorable view of Beto O’Rourke,” said Dr. Mark Owens, Political Science professor at UT Tyler.

Abbott’s approval rating has hovered in the high 40’s.

Moreover, both parties in East Texas are hoping the campaign will be about the following issues.

For local Democrats, according to Michael Tolbert, the Democratic Chairman for Smith County, education is number one.

“When it comes to improving our economy, it’s all about taking natural resources whether that’s minerals and earthly resources or people,” said Tolbert. “And the number one way we can convert all of those resources into increasing prosperity for all Texans is improving education.”

Another issue East Texas Democrats are passionate about is infrastructure.

“We passed this infrastructure bill, and we need leadership in Texas that’s going to focus on things that help us- not hurt us,” said Tolbert.

As for the Republican party in East Texas, much of their focus is on the legislative work they’ve already accomplished.

“The Republican party and our legislatures have worked hard to pass 8 legislative priorities. We didn’t get all eight passed, but we got a couple of big ones: The Constitutional Carry, The Election Integrity Bill, The Heartbeat Bill. We would definitely hold his feet to the fire to uphold those laws and not try to overturn them,” said Brian Bowden, Republican Chairman for Gregg County.

Bowden said if O’Rourke were to win the governor race, it would be difficult to meet the politician halfway.

“There are no conservative values that Robert Francis has that we could ever work with. He’s never tried to work with the Republican party. He wants to push the progressive agenda from AOC and others, just like President Biden has done. It’s a huge failure. We are going to do everything we can to keep a Republican elected as Governor,” said Bowden.

Polls show 20% of Texans currently do not have an opinion on Beto O’Rourke. He will have to get their support to stand a chance against Governor Abbott.

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