The two candidates for Texas governor: an overview

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Graphic by Emma Short

The two primary candidates for Texas governor are Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (right) and Democratic former U.S. representative Beto O’Rourke (left).

The Texas midterm elections will be held on Nov. 8, and early voting began Oct. 24. Election Day voting will be held at the HHS9 campus, Carrollton Public Library, Arbor Creek Middle School, Prestonwood Baptist Church and Rosemeade Recreation Center. In preparation for some students to vote in their first election, here is an overview of the two primary candidates for Texas governor, Republican Gregory Abbott and Democrat Robert “Beto” O’Rourke.

Background:

Abbott: Republican candidate Greg Abbott is the current Governor of Texas. His primary priorities are ensuring Texans have access to healthcare, improving public safety, putting Texans back to work post-pandemic, protecting personal liberties and unleashing the state’s strong economy. 

O’Rourke: Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke grew up in El Paso where he has served as a city council representative, a member of Congress and ran for president in 2019. His priorities include protecting Texans from gun violence, reducing inflation, improving education, providing affordable healthcare and giving women freedom to make their own healthcare decisions. 

Policies:

Gun laws

Abbott: As the governor, Abbott expanded gun rights and signed “open carry” into law. He is an “avid hunter,” member of the Texas State Rifle Association, and said he will work to overreach any federal law that diminishes the freedom to own and carry firearms.

O’Rourke: He wants to protect the Second Amendment and protect Texans by making basic changes: raising the age of firearm purchases to 21, closing loopholes for background checks and investing in mental health care. He plans to repeal permitless carry and doesn’t believe any civilian should own an AR-15 or AK-47. 

The economy

Abbott: He values Texas’ strong economy. 40,000 new nonfarm jobs were added in September and he repealed $250 million worth of professional fees preventing Texans entering the workforce. He also released the largest tax relief package Texas has had in a decade and property taxes were cut by more than a billion dollars. 

O’Rourke: He vows to raise the minimum wage and wants to increase access to paid sick leave. He wants to expand oil and gas leadership by creating one million high skill and high wage union jobs in geothermal energy, offshore wind, hydrogen and battery storage. He also wants to create 300,000 jobs in the healthcare industry and expand Medicaid to bring billions into the Texas economy. Along with that, he says one of his top priorities will be to bring down costs for small businesses by non promoting income taxes, lowering property taxes by ensuring wealthy companies pay their share and lowering their monthly energy bills. He guarantees tax fairness and ensures wealthy corporations pay what they truly owe to reduce property taxes for families and small businesses.  

Immigration

Abbott: According to his website, Abbott signed the toughest border security law of any state. He requires state agencies to ensure money only goes to those eligible to work in the United States.

O’Rourke: He wants to invest in border enforcement technologies like sensors, surveillance towers and drones that can help enforcement authorities carry out arrests, which also means additional processing capacity to allow more efficiently screened migrants. He also wants to support businesses and bring down inflation with a guest worker program, giving migrants a legal way to fill labor shortages. Finally, he wants to reform the family reunification system so U.S. citizens can legally bring family members over from other countries more quickly. 

Education

Abbott: During his time as governor, Abbott issued a “Parental Bill of Rights” which ensured that parents remained the primary decision makers in their child’s education. This gave parents the right  to decide if their child should have to repeat a grade level. Parents were also given access to all courses and materials their children were being taught. He said he wants to recruit the best and brightest teachers and allow them to earn the most in the nation.

O’Rourke: He believes Texas’ current hyperfixation on standardized testing has made schools more about taking tests than obtaining learning material. He said as governor he will fully fund public schools, raise teacher pay and strengthen health care and retirement benefits for teachers. 

Abortion

Abbott: He believes in protecting the unborn. Since he has been in office, Texas banned abortions after six weeks and increased funding for adoption services. 

O’Rourke: He wants to fight against Texas’ abortion ban, his website stating he will “stand with Texas women and will fight to get them back their reproductive freedom.” He will veto any further legislation regarding reproductive non-freedoms, including limiting access to contraception, preventing Texans from crossing borders to seek reproductive care and prosecuting businesses that pay for them to seek this care. He wants to strengthen investments in affordable contraception and cancer screenings, and will also combat Texas’ maternal mortality crisis by increasing Medicaid eligibility to one year postpartum. 

Energy and the environment

Abbott: As governor, Abbott issued an executive order to protect Texas’ energy industry from federal overreach. He said he wants to avoid destroying jobs and raising energy costs for families in Texas. 

O’Rourke: He wants to ensure Texas remains the global energy leader for generations to come. He plans to fix the failing power grid, bring down energy bills and fight against climate change. He wants to fully weatherize the power grid to withstand extreme weather, enforce pollution laws and produce jobs in emission reduction strategies. 

Marijuana

Abbott: Before the 2018 election, Abbott made statements regarding being open to lowering penalties for marijuana possession, but has not yet made changes to Texas law as governor. But, this month, a spokesperson of his made it clear marijuana pardons were not happening if Abbott was reelected. His stance on marijuana pardons or legalization is not made clear in any of his policies or on his website. 

O’Rourke: He vows to legalize marijuana and expunge records of those criminalized for marijuana possession. He’ll use the nearly $1 billion in new state revenue and reduced criminal justice costs to invest in public schools and reduce property taxes.