Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke visited Houston on Saturday for a town hall in Spring Branch.
Speaking to attendees at the Lazy Oaks Beer Garden, O’Rourke talked about his desire to raise teacher pay, connect the Texas electrical grid to the rest of the nation, stop the governor’s attacks on transgender children, and eliminate the student debt of nurses and pay them more to address a statewide staffing shortage.
The latter elicited an angry response from one hidden protestor in the audience who shouted at O’Rourke and accused him of liking beer (?). They were promptly ejected from the bar, but not before another attendee splashed a glass of beer on them.
The former El Paso congressman especially focused on the issue-plauged Texas Department of Family Services, where a federal judge has lost confidence in Texas authorities to investigate a Bastrop foster care facility for sexual abuse and child tracking.
Condemning the governor’s “stranger than fiction” order to DFPS to investigate gender-affirming healthcare as child abuse, O’Rourke said the attack on transgender children was occuring at a time when Texas had 30,000 children in its foster care system.
“So many [are] sleeping under the desks at CPS offices, 200 of them we have found have been trafficked for their bodies while in the custody and care of CPS, 23 have lost their lives in the last two years,” O’Rourke said.
Later, O’Rourke echoed the words of a federal judge that ruled Texas’ foster care system unconstitutional because it violated children’s rights to be free from unreasonable harm and said that children left the system, “more damaged than when they entered.”
“We’re not taking care of them when they’re in our custody and care,” O’Rourke said of the children. “And listen to this perverse irony, you’ve got the governor trying to scare you about pornography in our school libraries right now. His own CPS agency is contracting with private providers who are making child porn of those foster care kids who are in their custody right now.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t get more fucked up than that,” he said.
“This place in Bastrop County is accused of taking in children who had been trafficked for their bodies — 12, 13, 15-year-old girls — rented out to the people in their communities,” O’Rourke said. “We take them in, send them to a private facility where the accusation is then made that they are being trafficked and rented out for their bodies again.”
“Now this should alarm all of us and I think it does,” O’Rourke said, “but the governor sends in the Texas Rangers and in a matter of days they say, ‘folks nothing to see here, no problem whatsoever.’ And then news escapes that they are beginning to make these videos and pornographic films of these children, who again are under the care of the state through this private contractors.”
“We want real answers, we want real transparency, we want real accountability,” he said, promising the full weight of Texas law on the alleged child abusers.
O’Rourke also criticized the governor for making the Lone Star State the toughest nation to vote in and get registered to vote in.
“Perhaps the greatest attack of this governor on the people of Texas comes in the form of his attack on our democracy,” O’Rourke said.
“We got to get past the cruelty, the incompetence, the corruption of this current governor and its going to be up to all of us to make it happen,” he said. “There is no one riding to the rescue to save us at this moment. This one is on you, and me, and each and every single one of us.”
O’Rourke took several questions from the audience, the first focusing on the immigration in Texas. He said the border patrol shouldn’t be focused on the humanitarian challenge at the border, but on cartels trafficking drugs and people. He condemned the “art installation” of a border wall being constructed by Abbott and called the governor’s Operation Lone Star (an immigration enforcement initiative that may be trampling over federal law) a solution in search of a problem.
Another question focused on how O’Rourke would help Historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
“Those HBCUs are funded at a fraction of our flagship universities like the University of Texas at Austin … They have the largest public endomentment of any public university in the United States of America, how about some of that money going to the HBCUs here in Houston and in other communities across the state?” O’rourke said.
The Houston visit is a part of O’Rourke’s “People of Texas” tour where his campaign plans to focus on young voters with more than a dozen public town halls. In 2018, the former congressman’s Senate campaign saw a historic increase in youth turnout, increasing the turnout by more than 500 percent.
The tour also arrives as a recent poll shows the race is almost in dead head at the top of the ticket, with Abbott leading O’Rourke leading by only two percentage points according to the Texas Lyceum statewide survey.
Election day for the contest is Nov. 8.
Original photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons