Laredo, Texas —returned to the campaign trail Friday night in Laredo, Texas, a crucial spot for the Democratic nominee for governor and for the party statewide.
After being away for over a week as he, O’Rourke returned to a cheering crowd of hundreds of supporters. Since the beginning of July, O’Rourke has been on a 49-day, 70-stop tour through Texas, which is set to wrap up next week in the central Texas town of Lockhart.
O’Rourke stuck to issues pertaining to Texas, calling Gov. Greg Abbott “the worst governor in the United States,” and touched on the 2021 power grid failure,and , a huge issue in Laredo, a border town. He did not mention President Joe Biden or the president’s speech on Thursday night that called out “MAGA Republicans.”
But O’Rourke did acknowledge what he called “some dark days for the people of Texas.”
“In Abbott’s Texas, it is you or me. I know that in our Texas, it is you and me,” he said.
With no Democrat having won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, O’Rourke has instead tried to highlight what he calls Abbott’s extremism and flip moderate Republicans. On Friday, he told the crowd that “we need to make up this ground right now.”
O’Rourke hit Abbott’s border policies especially hard. Republicans have aggressively targeted South Texas, buoyed by record GOP turnout in the March primary and winning a special election in June in the neighboring 34th Congressional district. Abbott has agreed to one debate so far with O’Rourke on Sept. 30 in Edinburg. O’Rourke has proposed four town hall-style debates with the governor, who has not yet agreed to participate, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
Abbott hit the campaign trail this week in Dallas’ suburban Collin County, a once solidly Republican stronghold that has become more competitive in recent years.
Abbott has steadily shown a lead in the polls and while O’Rourke outraised him last quarter, the governor maintains a cash-on-hand advantage. Abbott began running television ads the week of Aug. 16, according to the Texas Tribune, while O’Rourke’s campaign told the Tribune they had begun reserving $10 million in ads this week.
O’Rourke called immigration “the governor’s favorite issue” that he “wants the rest of the world to know about and that’s a problem.”
“Well, let me tell you what, he’s had seven and a half years to do something about it. And what we have today is far more chaotic than what we had when he first took office,” O’Rourke said.
This summer Abbott has undertaken a controversial busing program to send migrants to New York, Washington and now Chicago, all Democrat-run cities. O’Rourke called the busing a “stunt.”
During the speech, Customs and Border Protection confirmed thatat a border crossing in Eagle Pass, Texas, where O’Rourke plans to stop on Saturday. CBP said it rescued 37 migrants from the group.
O’Rourke also touched on the shooting in Uvalde, which left 19 children and two teachers dead. O’Rourke, who has long been an advocate for stricter gun control laws, made national headlines in May when he confronted Abbott at a press conference in Uvalde the day after the shooting.
O’Rourke has been pushing for Abbott to call a special session of the state legislature to address the issue. Abbott said at a campaign stop on Wednesday that raising the age to buy assault weapons would be unconstitutional.
Ricky Longoria said he was attending for the children and teachers of Uvalde. O’Rourke had to cancel an event in Falfurrias and Longoria, 21, said he traveled the 90 minutes to see him because it could be one of the last stops in South Texas.