“It is so great to be with you again, to be bringing the band back together,” bellowed Beto O’Rourke on top of a stage outside Fair Park in Dallas, Texas on Sunday. O’Rourke was making his first trip to North Texas since announcing for governor and the crowd was enthusiastically responsive to his forward-thinking message about Texas.
Well over a thousand people entered the parking lot of Fair Park, several hailing from more distant counties like Rockwall and Collin. Janie, a massage therapist from Fort Worth, made the trek with her seven-year-old daughter. She told the Signal, “We just love him, and we felt we needed to be here.”
The adoration of O’Rourke was palpable from the crowd. There were several shirts, signs, and even some custom boots bearing O’Rourke’s name.
When O’Rourke took the stage donning a Dallas Cowboys cap, there was thunderous applause. His speech kicked off with a plea that “we are Texans first and foremost.” Eschewing many partisan talking points, O’Rourke’s speech was very focused on kitchen table basics, with a big emphasis on the failures of the winter storm last February.
“When the power in this state failed in February, and those in power failed all of us, we got to work.” He then talked about the efforts of Texans reaching out to neighbors for warmth, food, or other necessities. “Imagine if we had a governor in Texas who felt the same way about the people he serves.”
O’Rourke then dinged Abbott for pursuing an agenda of extremes that are ultimately harmful to Texas. O’Rourke spoke about how permitless carry, which Abbott signed earlier this year, was opposed by law enforcement. He also cited the fact that Texas has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history,
O’Rourke also chastised Abbott for signing a massive voter suppression bill, despite Texas being ranked the toughest state to vote. “In this state, the governor does not trust the voters.”
O’Rourke also spoke at length about the healthcare challenges facing everyday Texans. As governor, he pledged that he would expand Medicaid. He also promised that he would protect the right for Texans to make their own healthcare decisions, a dig at the six-week abortion ban Abbott signed this year.
After the rally, O’Rourke lined up to take photos with hundreds of fans. He also spoke to reporters. Texas Signal asked about recent attempts from a Republican state representative to investigate school districts and libraries with books that discuss anti-racism of LGBTQ themes.
“What I’m hearing from most people in Texas including the constituents of Republican representatives is that they care more about the ability to read, the ability to pass at grade level, the ability to be college ready and we’re really not getting the job done in Texas right now,” said O’Rourke. He also noted that 70 percent of fourth graders are not reading at that grade level, and that ultimately makes the state less competitive. O’Rourke also vowed as governor that he would increase the pay for teachers, who in Texas are paid well below the national average.