Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Friday, April 2, 2021, that he is not going to challenge Greg Abbott for Texas governor.
“I’ve got no plans to run, and I’m very focused on the things that I’m lucky enough to do right now — organizing, registering voters, and teaching,” Beto told Lone Star Politics. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing now.”
Democrats were hoping Beto, who in 2018 lost to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz by 2.6 percentage points, to be the party’s standard-bearer against Abbott in 2022. After discussing with some Democrats, Beto had said he was considering running for governor but added he would work to elect any Democrat that emerged against Abbott.
Beto says he is happy working in mobilizing voters through his PAC called Powered by People. He also teaches classes at the University of Texas and Texas State University.
O’Rourke has also been trying to stop bills in the GOP-controlled Legislature that he says are designed to suppress voting.
Beto stated: “I drove out to the Capitol, eight and a half-hour drive, waited 15 hours to be able to testify,” O’Rourke said, adding that he enjoys working with Texas civil rights groups. “That’s the work that is most important right now and I don’t want to distract from it by talking about a campaign or running for office. I want to do what’s before us … this work to protect our democracy.”
On the Lone Star Politics Podcast, Beto suggested that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo would be excellent candidates to run against Abbott.
“How about a Democrat like Clay Jenkins, the county judge of Dallas County, who has, in contrast, absolutely distinguished himself in the professionalism with which he’s met both the pandemic and the rollout of the vaccine?” O’Rourke asked. “How about somebody like Lina Hidalgo, the county judge in Harris County, who has disregarded the polls and the conventional wisdom and instead followed the best public health advice and science and guidance from medical practitioners?”
Jenkins, who has disagreed with Abbott regarding Covid issues, said he’s focusing on defeating the virus and getting Dallas County through the pandemic.
But there have been rumblings in Democratic Party circles about a movement to draft Jenkins.
Hidalgo is considered a rising star on the Texas political scene. A statewide or high-profile race is likely in her future, but running against Abbott in 2022 may be too soon.
O’Rourke suggested that his absence from the 2022 ballot would not hinder Democrats from toppling Abbott, adding that the party should make “competence” a central theme in the 2022 elections. He said Abbott’s handling of the winter storm that left millions without power and caused the deaths of more than 100 Texans was an example of incompetent GOP leadership.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa had hoped O’Rourke would run against Abbott.
“It’s very hard for us to recruit candidates right now, when you have somebody looking like he’s going to run,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said last month. “Right now we’re just taking a wait-and-see attitude on this thing.”
O’Rourke said Democrats will find a good candidate.
“We have no shortage of talent and no shortage of challenges that we have in this state because of Greg Abbott’s failed leadership that we can correct with competent leaders moving forward,” he said. “There’s more than enough for a candidate to run on, and more than enough qualified Democratic prospective candidates to do that job. I feel very good about our prospects in 2022.”