Democrat Beto O'Rourke is running for governor of Texas, pursuing a blue breakthrough in America's biggest red state, per the AP. O'Rourke's announcement Monday via video kicks off a third run for office in as many election cycles. First came his near-miss 2018 Senate race against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Then he burst into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as a party phenomenon but dropped out just eight months later as money and fanfare dried up. "It's not going to be easy. But it is possible," O'Rourke said ahead of his announcement. "I do believe, very strongly, from listening to people in this state that they're very unhappy with the direction that (Gov.) Greg Abbott has taken Texas."
O'Rourke's return sets up one of 2022’s highest-profile—and potentially most expensive—races for governor. Abbott, a Republican, is seeking a third term and has put Texas in the vanguard of hard-right policymaking in state capitals and emerged as a national figure. A challenge from O'Rourke, a media-savvy former congressman with a record of generating attention and cash, could tempt Democrats nationwide to pour millions of dollars into trying—again—to flip Texas. Still, O'Rourke is coming back an underdog. Although the state's growing population of Latino, young, and college-educated voters is good for Democrats, the party's spending blitz in the 2020 presidential election left them with nothing.
O’Rourke, 49, will have to win over not only hundreds of thousands of new voters but some of his old ones. When O'Rourke lost to Cruz by just 2.5 percentage points, Abbott won reelection by double digits that same year, reflecting a large number of Texans who voted for O'Rourke and for the GOP governor. In the interview, O'Rourke signaled he'll try to reclaim the middle in his bid for governor. He blasted Abbott for a "very extremist, divisive" agenda that caters to the hard right.
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