DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - During Beto O'Rourke's first rally in North Texas since he entered the Texas Governor's race last Monday, his campaign said he attracted more than 1,500 people to Dallas Fair Park.
O'Rourke told the crowd, "We are the big, bold, beautiful people of Texas who are coming to reclaim this state."
He railed against what he called Governor Greg Abbott's and Republicans' extreme policies on guns, abortion, and elections. O'Rourke challenged his supporters to knock on doors, reach new voters, and embrace his philosophy.
"Did we decide that we're not Democrats or Republicans or even Independents, but that we are Texans first and foremost before anything else."
While Democrats are happy O'Rourke has entered the race, a new poll released Sunday suggests he still has work to do. The Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler poll shows Abbott leading O'Rourke 45-39%. When it comes to the impression Texas voters have of O'Rourke, the poll shows 37% have a favorable view of him, while 43% have an unfavorable view.
Among Independents, O'Rourke has a 28% favorable rating, and a 44% unfavorable rating. When asked how he will try to fix that so more Independents and perhaps Republicans support him, O'Rourke said, "Who knows with these polls, right?"
He said the general election is still nearly a year away, giving him plenty of time to meet more people. "If it is not about the candidate and not about my political party but instead about Texas and the big things we want to do, better jobs, world-class schools, expanding Medicaid so everyone can see a doctor, we are going to win."
O'Rourke said another priority of his is to legalize marijuana.
Governor Abbott has repeatedly criticized O'Rourke as too liberal and wrong for Texas with his positions on the second amendment, border security and illegal immigration, and energy jobs being out of step with most Texans.
The Governor faces two conservative challengers, former State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas and former Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West in the March 1 primary.
Unlike Abbott, Texas Democrats have said they don't believe O'Rourke will face a major primary opponent. The deadline for candidates to file their campaign paperwork is December 13.
O'Rourke said Sunday it's not about political labels but making the race about all Texans. "I think that's one, the best path for victory and I think it's two, the only way to successfully govern especially if you have divided government in the state of Texas."
If he wins, O'Rourke said he'll likely have to work with a Republican majority in the legislature. His supporters at the Dallas rally we spoke with said they prefer the political center.
Barbara Bonner said, "Any politician that's in office I would want them to be a thoughtful, thinking politician, not necessarily left or right."
"I would personally prefer that he go a little bit more towards the center because I think that's a more conceivable place to be elected," said Jim Adams.
O'Rourke's campaign said he raised $2 million in the first 24 hours of his announcement that he's running. Abbott's campaign said earlier this year that he had more than $55 million in his campaign account.
O'Rourke's campaign said he will return to North Texas after Thanksgiving, with a campaign stop in Fort Worth.
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