Texas Election: Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott discuss guns, abortion and immigration in debate

Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Republican Greg Abbott.

Photo: Brandon Bell//Getty Images

The disputed electoral race for governor of texas reached the final stretch on Friday in the first and only debate between incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott Y the democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, where both discussed some of the most important issues that face them in the elections in Texas.

Although recent polls have shown O’Rourke trailing Abbott by about 7 points, this could be Texas’s closest gubernatorial race in years. Abbott won the election in 2014 by more than 20 points and in 2018 by more than 15 points.

The debate was held without an audience at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.

Immigration a top issue for Texas voters

Abbott touted the $4 billion the state has allocated for border security, to deploy thousands of National Guard and Department of Public Safety troops to the southern border to stop the large numbers of migrants crossing into the state. . And he pointed out that the state shouldn’t pay money because the federal government should step up border security.

He blamed Biden for the large number of migrants and drugs, such as fentanyl, entering the country through the Texas-Mexico border.

O’Rourke immediately attacked and criticized “Operation Lone Star” saying that Abbott was trying to deflect blame on immigration, as he does on other issues. He pointed out that Abbott’s expensive border mission it has not had the impact of decreasing border crossings or deterring immigrants.

O’Rourke said Texas needs a “safe and orderly pathway” for migrants crossing the border that reflects the values ​​and interests of the state, including a guest worker program.

The two candidates also clashed over the governor’s transportation of immigrants to Democratic-led cities like New York City and Washington, D.C.

Gun control

Abbott and O’Rourke have not met in person since the day after the shooting that caused a massacre at Uvalde Elementary School, when O’Rourke confronted Abbott during a news conference. O’Rourke has continued to criticize Abbott for his response to the shooting, even holding a press conference before the debate with the families of the shooting victims.

In the debate, Abbott was asked about his comments at that news conference the day after the Uvalde shooting, which left 19 students and two teachers dead. In those comments, he said the shooting “could have been worse” and praised law enforcement’s response. Leaked video of the shooting has since shown officers waited in the hallway for 73 minutes to enter, and at times the screams of children could be heard.

Abbott said he was “misled” by “everyone in that room who provided me with the information about what the police did” when the video was released.

O’Rourke has responded that Abbott must be held accountable, asking him to call a special session of the state legislature to enact tougher gun laws. Abbott has said those laws would be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

“It’s been 18 weeks since their children were killed, and nothing has changed in this state to make it less likely that any other child will meet the same fate,” O’Rourke said, referring to the children’s families and the two teachers. who died in the massacre in Uvalde.

“Those families I was just with from Uvalde want us to take action,” O’Rourke said. “This is the common ground. I’ve heard from Republicans and Democrats alike about this; we can agree on this: increase age to 21, red flag law and universal background check.”

right to abortion

In 2021, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Abbott signed a law that prohibited abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. After the decision of the Supreme Court, a new activation law came into force that prohibits abortion.

Abbott has said that the state would provide the pills called Plan B for victims of rape or incest and on Friday night he repeated it saying that Plan B should be “readily available” to them. But abortion rights advocates have pointed out that Plan B is often not widely available in the state.

Additionally, emergency contraception is out of reach for lower-income Texans, many of whom are uninsured and face a dearth of state programs to access resources like Plan B to prevent pregnancy.

O’Rourke said Friday that this election is a referendum on “reproductive freedom” and told Texans that “if you care about that, you should get out and vote.”

The Democratic nominee said he would push for a return to abortion laws established by Roe v. Wade Act of 1973, which created constitutional protections for access to abortion.

52% of likely voters have said they would change Texas abortion laws to make the procedure more accessible, according to a Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation/KVUE poll.

Final arguments

In his closing statement, O’Rourke said Abbott was “unable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to put the lives of our fellow Texans first.”

“That’s why it’s up to all of us to make sure we have change at the polls this November 8,” he said. “I’ll keep your lights on, I’ll make sure to keep your kids safe [y] I will lower property taxes, and we will put the lives of each and every Texan in the state first.”

Abbott touted his success during his two terms, including being ranked No. 1 for the state with the most jobs added, for Blue Ribbon Schools, and for Tier 1 research universities.

“I am running for re-election to keep Texas No. 1, to lower property taxes, to secure the border, to keep dangerous criminals behind bars, and to keep deadly fentanyl off our streets,” Abbott said. “Together, we will keep Texas No. 1.”

With information from the Texas Tribune, CBS News and CNN