EL PASO (CBSDFW.COM) — After months of public speculation and private consideration, Democrat Beto O'Rourke made it official Monday morning -- announcing he's entering the race for Texas Governor.
O'Rourke, a former El Paso Congressman who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2018 against Ted Cruz and for President in 2020, made his announcement in a video posted on Twitter.
In the video, he cited the widespread power failure in February that the state says claimed the lives of 210 Texans. "They were abandoned by those elected to serve and look out for them. Those in positions of public trust stopped listening to, serving, paying attention, and trusting the people of Texas and so they're not focused on the things that we really want them to do."
O'Rourke will now tour the State and make a campaign stop in Dallas Sunday.
Democrats CBS 11 News spoke with in the days before the announcement said they do not expect any major primary challenge against O'Rourke.
O'Rourke will challenge the two-term incumbent Governor Greg Abbott who announced earlier this year he had $55 million in his campaign account for his re-election bid.
The Democrat has proven he can raise a lot of money as well.
Even before O'Rourke entered the race, the Governor's re-election campaign has been trying to define the Democrat in a series of online ads called "Wrong Way O'Rourke."
A poll this month by UT/Texas Tribune gave Abbott a nine point edge over O'Rourke, 46-percent to 37-percent.
A UT Tyler/Dallas Morning News poll in September showed the Governor leading O'Rourke by five points, 42-percent to 37-percent.
Governor Abbott is facing a primary challenge from two major conservative candidates: former State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas and former Texas GOP Chair Allen West, who also served as a Congressman in Florida.
Abbott has consistently led recent polls among Republican primary voters.
But he has seen his overall approval ratings drop during the COVID-19 pandemic amid controversies over mask and vaccine mandates.
After O'Rourke announced he was running for office, Texans For Greg Abbott communications director Mark Miner issued the following statement:
"From Beto O'Rourke's reckless calls to defund the police to his dangerous support of the Biden Administration's pro-open border policies, which have resulted in thousands of fentanyl deaths, Beto O'Rourke has demonstrated he has more in common with President Biden than he does with Texans. Governor Abbott proudly supports the men and women of law enforcement, has deployed Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel and resources to secure the border, and has created a business climate that has made Texas the economic engine of America. The last thing Texans need is President Biden's radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O'Rourke. The contrast for the direction of Texas couldn't be clearer."
O'Rourke spent the summer touring the state to fight back against the Republicans' election integrity bill and to register people to vote.
His organization, Powered By People, said 850 people signed up to attend the June 7 rally he headlined in Denton to protest the election integrity bill.
During an interview after that event, I asked O'Rourke why there was a reluctance by a Democrat to announce a run for Governor. "It's still early. The filing deadline is six months away from now. When you get into that campaign as I know from running statewide in 2018, it's a long, grueling, brutal affair," he said. "There's 254 of these counties if you're going to do it right, and so I wouldn't be surprised if people are thinking about the scope and scale of the challenge and look at the field and making their decision, but I'm confident that Democrats will field a strong candidate."
Democratic Party activist Haley Taylor Schlitz said O'Rourke's effort to register voters gives him credibility among Democrats. "I think that his message has been consistent in that he's very passionate, and I think that resonates with voters that just because you lost, you didn't fade away, that you actually care about the issue, it's not just the election."
During an interview in September, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa praised O'Rourke's ability to connect with voters. "He's the one that best articulates that in this state, far better than any Republican. We're hopeful he does run. We think that he can beat Greg Abbott."
While various Texas polls show Democrats wanted O'Rourke to run, Republican Party Chair, Matt Rinaldi has previously said he'd like to see O'Rourke jump back into the ring. "I think Republicans are very hopeful Beto O'Rourke decides to run for Governor considering his past track record."
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