Beto O’Rourke is back on the campaign trail in South Texas

Laredo, Texas – Beto O’Rourke returned to the campaign trail Friday night in Laredo, Texas, a critical point for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and the party statewide.

After being gone for over a week like him recovered from a bacterial infection, O’Rourke returned to a cheering crowd of hundreds of supporters. Since early July, O’Rourke has been on a 49-date, 70-stop tour of Texas, which is set to wrap up next week in the central Texas town of Lockhart.

O’Rourke stayed on Texas-related issues, calling Gov. Greg Abbott “the worst governor in the United States” and touching on the 2021 grid failure, abortion and immigration, a huge issue in Laredo, a border town. He didn’t mention President Joe Biden or the president’s Thursday night speech calling out “MAGA Republicans.”

But O’Rourke acknowledged what he called “some dark days for the people of Texas.”

“In Abbott’s Texas, it’s you or me. I know in our Texas, it’s you and me,” he said.

With no Democrat winning a statewide race in Texas since 1994, O’Rourke has sought to highlight what he calls Abbott’s extremism and unseat moderate Republicans. On Friday, he told the crowd that “we need to cover this ground right now.”

O’Rourke hit particularly hard on Abbott’s border policies. Republicans have aggressively targeted South Texas, boosted by record GOP turnout in March primaries and winning a June special election in the neighboring 34th Congressional District. Abbott has agreed to one debate so far with O’Rourke on September 30 in Edinburgh. O’Rourke has proposed four town hall-style discussions with the governor, who has yet to agree to participate, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

Beto O’Rourke in Laredo, Texas. / Credit: Caroline Linton / CBS News

Abbott hit the campaign trail this week in Dallas’ Collin County, a once-strong Republican stronghold that has become more competitive in recent years.

Abbott has shown a steady lead in the polls and while O’Rourke has overtaken him in the last quarter, the governor maintains a cash 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 holding $10 million in ads this week.

O’Rourke called immigration “the governor’s pet issue” that “the rest of the world wants to know about and that’s a problem.”

“Well, let me tell you something, 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 undertook a controversial bus program to send immigrants to New York, Washington and now Chicago, all Democratic-controlled cities. O’Rourke called the bus a “trick.”

During the speech, Customs and Border Protection confirmed this nine migrants had drowned at a border crossing in Eagle Pass, Texas, where O’Rourke plans to stop on Saturday. CBP said it rescued 37 immigrants from the group.

O’Rourke also touched on the Uvalde shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. O’Rourke, a longtime advocate of stricter gun control laws, made national headlines in May when he confronted Abbott at a news 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 Wednesday that raising the age to purchase assault weapons would be unconstitutional.

Ricky Longoria said he watched the Uvalde kids and teachers. O’Rourke had to cancel an event in Falfurrias, and Longoria, 21, said she traveled the 90 minutes to see him because it could be one of the last stops in South Texas.

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