The two candidates running for governor of Texas, incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic nominee Beto O’ Rourke, faced off in a one-hour debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg on Friday.
The debate covered various topics, from gun violence, abortion, immigration, and the power grid, with both candidates slamming each other on their political records. Both candidates also explained their vision for Texas before a noticeably empty theater.
Here is a recap of some of the critical moments.
Throughout this segment, Abbott said the Biden Administration’s “open border policies” caused the uptick in migrants at the Texas-Mexico border. Then said his policy of bussing migrants to northeastern parts of the country was a solution after meeting with local border city officials.
“Mayor Adams has never called my office,” Abbott said. “Never talked to anyone in my administration, so what he’s saying is flat out false. There has been communication between non-governmental organizations in Texas as well as the ultimate location whether that’s Washington D.C. or New York.”
But New York City Press Secretary Fabian Levy tweeted an email chain of the New York Administration contacting Abbott’s administration.
“@GregAbbott_TX, not only did our office call you about this, but we followed up via email.”
O’Rourke responded by hitting Abbott on the $4 billion Operation Lone Star, which the Texas government has repeatedly misled the public on, according to reports.
O’Rourke also acknowledged issues on the border and explained his plan for immigration reform, including a legal pathway to citizenship for migrants seeking asylum, a guest worker, and a National Guards Voluntary Participation program.
He also promised to work across party lines to create more solutions.
Friday morning, families who lost their children in the Uvalde massacre joined O’Rourke at a press conference to show their support after Abbott said raising the age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21 years old would be “unconstitutional.”
At the debate, Abbott said again that he wouldn’t raise the age and reiterated his disapproval of red flag laws despite both policies being popular among Texas voters.
In this section, Abbott focused heavily on mental health instead of guns. He also said he was misled by law enforcement officers after the Uvalde shooting and seven DPS officers are under current investigation for not following the Columbine protocol.
“Any attempt to try to raise the age is going to be met with it being overturned, so we need to get to the button of what is really ailing our communities,” Abbott said. “That is the mental health that is leading people to engage in school shootings,”
On the other hand, O’Rourke said he supports raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle, implementing red flag laws, and universal background checks. He also highlighted how Texas ranks 51st in access to mental health care.
“There should be accountability up and down the ballot beginning with Greg Abbott,” O’Rourke said. “I think he has lost the right to serve this state in the most important position of public trust. We know there were 91 DPS troopers for whom he was responsible who were on the other side of an unlocked door, some for more than 70 minutes.”
At the debate, Abbott said Texas would ensure Plan B is available for victims of rape and incest and recommend the pregnant person, no matter their circumstances, to the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program.
“An alternative obviously is to do what we can to assist and aid the victim, and that is to get them the medical assistance that they need but also to know what their options are…The state provides living assistance, baby supplies, all kinds of them that can help them.”
O’Rourke said he supports women making their own medical decisions and returning to the abortion limits repealed in Roe v. Wade. He also added that Abbott’s restrictive abortion ban is one of the most extreme in the U.S.
O’Rourke said he doesn’t believe in defunding the police but supports more training and holding officers accountable despite Abbott’s attack advertisements.
He also slammed Abbott for signing permitless carry into law, allowing anyone to purchase an assault rifle without training or clearance.
Despite being governor for eight years, Abbott faulted the rise in crime in larger cities like Austin and Houston for their policies.
The Electric Grid
Abbott said the power grid is more “reliable” and “resilient” than ever before and said the state is adding more non-renewable energy like natural gas to keep up with the demand.
Still, O’Rourke slammed Abbott for his inaction in fixing the grid before the 2021 Winter Storm Uri, which left 700 Texans dead and millions more without power or electricity for days.
He also highlighted how Texans’ energy bills have increased to compensate for the storm, and Abbott still hasn’t decided to weatherize the grid.
Like many states across the country, Texas is experiencing a teacher shortage, with safety, low pay, and burnout as the key reasons for leaving the profession, according to reports.
O’Rourke promised to increase teacher salaries and eliminate the Texas standardized test to alleviate the pressure on teachers and students. He also pledged to give retired teachers a cost of living adjustment and said he wanted to raise the state’s share of school funding to decrease property taxes and increase school funding.
Abbott said he plans to raise teachers’ salaries if elected again and had already developed programs to help teachers get a six-figure compensation.
O’Rourke noted his plan to expand Medicaid, increase the state’s education budget, marijuana legalization, and fairly charge commercial corporations could reduce Texans’ costs.
Abbott said he wants to eliminate the school property tax and reduce local officials’ government ability to raise property taxes.
After the debate, many Texans on social media voiced their hope for another debate to help voters learn more about the candidates as it gets closer to the Nov. 8 election.
O’Rourke has already agreed to four more debates against Abbott, but the governor still has not confirmed if he will participate.
According to the latest poll, Abbott is leading O’Rourke by eight points.
This race’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 11, and early voting starts on Oct. 24.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.