Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke makes final move in Amarillo
Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke returned to Amarillo Thursday night for a “vote rally” at the Four Points Sheraton in Amarillo.
A crowd of around 280 turned out to support O’Rourke and his campaign, including Kathleen Brown, who is running for the 13th Congressional District seat against U.S. Representative Ronny Jackson, and Janet Dudding, the Democratic candidate for Comptroller from Texas. It was O’Rourke’s sixth time campaigning in Amarillo since beginning his gubernatorial campaign.
When Brown introduced O’Rourke, the crowd rose to applause as he took the stage to hammer home his stance on issues affecting the people of the Panhandle and Texas.
“We weren’t going to end this campaign without coming to Amarillo one more time,” O’Rourke told the crowd. “Democrats have often called this part of the country too red. Because Democrats consider it too difficult to win at the margins that this area represents. Republicans, because Democrats aren’t running, don’t have to go out and win your vote. Greg Abbott sleeps on you guys.
O’Rourke began by talking about the importance of people going out to vote and not assuming their vote doesn’t matter.
“We have to give people a reason to believe and to vote,” O’Rourke told the crowd. “We’re going to win this election and shock Texas.”
One of O’Rourke’s main campaign goals has been to take better care of teachers in Texas, as the state trails 27 states in teacher pay. He cited the state’s lack of cost-of-living increases for teachers and the amount of out-of-pocket expenses that the occupation occurs.
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O’Rourke spoke of his support for the issues of veterans, especially those who suffered from their service with an opioid addiction trying to treat their ailments. He supported the legalization of marijuana as an alternative to dangerous opioids and criticized incarceration for marijuana use.
“Far too many people in this country are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses,” O’Rourke said.
Pointing out that while all races of people use marijuana at about the same rate, O’Rourke said a disproportionate number of people of color are stopped, searched, and arrested in compliance with these laws.
The ability to register to vote more easily and the large difference in wait times to vote in specific areas were cited by O’Rourke as things that need to be fixed within the state. O’Rourke criticized the removal of polling places and long wait times in minority communities across the state. He promised he would change the Texas state holiday from Confederate Heroes Day to an Election Day holiday if he were governor.
Citing the Texas abortion ban put in place by Governor Abbott as the most restrictive in the country, O’Rourke criticized the suppression of women’s reproductive rights and its absence of any restrictions, including rape or incest. Previously, Governor Abbott said there was no need for exceptions since the state would work tirelessly to eliminate rape within the state, which led the nation in the same year in number of rapes. .
O’Rourke continued to call for reasonable gun safety measures that would subject all purchases to background checks and supported red flag laws to legally determine whether someone should have a gun if certain suspicious behaviors are shown, which can make them a danger to the public. He further criticized Abbott’s decision to remove the need for concealed carry permits in the state of Texas.
He said the mass shootings in El Paso and Uvalde could have been avoided had red flag laws been in place and there were signs that these individuals were unstable before their horrific acts.
O’Rourke criticized Abbott for being more committed to the profits of its energy sector donors than to the constituents it serves, as they pay a much higher cost for energy consumption while the companies make record profits and the state cannot maintain its electricity grid.
Addressing immigration, O’Rourke says the border problem must be solved through real solutions rather than political stunts like Abbott asylum seekers across the country just to get camera views. He also said the rhetoric adopted by the Republican Party was dangerous and led to the radicalization of people like the El Paso shooter, who cited an immigrant invasion as the reason for the opening of fire at a Walmart, killing 23 people.
A pathway to securing immigrant visas to help many businesses, especially agricultural ones that have experienced severe labor shortages, was mentioned by O’Rourke at the rally as a solution to help employers who desperately need their feet on the ground. He said people come here to work and there are opportunities and a need for that work.
As O’Rourke wrapped up his rally, he took time to take pictures with the fans waiting for the opportunity. He met everyone in line.
O’Rourke met the media during the meeting and answered a few questions on several topics.
Mental health was mentioned as a major issue in the state. O’Rourke said Texas was the worst in the country for access to mental health care, backed by a Mental Health America study. He said too often jails and jails are the only mental health care people get.
O’Rourke said he has a plan that will encourage more people to get into mental health treatment and inspire people to get that kind of training and serve in the communities they come from. He spoke of a six-year commitment to the fields based on receiving educational benefits.
Asked about the governor’s current approach to immigration, such as sending asylum seekers across the country, O’Rourke addressed his contrasting approach.
“If you want to come to this country, you have to follow our laws. I will work with all Texans to ensure that our laws reflect our values and our economic needs,” O’Rourke said. “That means working on real solutions, not media stunts like our current governor. There must be a safe, legal and orderly way for someone to come to this country. A Texas-based guest worker program would help meet the needs of our farms, industries, and restaurants that desperately need workers.
Asked about the current price of oil and gas and its effect on Texas residents, O’Rourke said he wants the state to be able to produce more of this energy in Texas, protecting the jobs we we have, but also expanding our leadership in development. other energy technologies such as wind and solar that will benefit all Texans.
O’Rourke also lamented the lack of health care and the loss of rural hospitals in Texas, a state with the most residents without health insurance in the nation. He said that when elected, he would expand Medicare in the state to help address this issue.
Tearanee Lockhart, who attended the rally, said she came to support O’Rourke because she felt he could genuinely bring change for the better in the state. She said she was frustrated that many people do not come to vote with so many issues that affect everyone.
“I think his support for women’s rights and access to the vote are the things that make me want to support him,” Lockhart said. “Abbott doesn’t care about statesmen, only big business; we should have better representation.
Both Amber Aguirre and Summer Lindsey came to the rally because of O’Rourke’s support for women and LGBT issues.
“Guns have more rights than us,” Aguirre said. “We don’t even have bodily autonomy as women.”
“How acceptable is it for a woman to do with her body,” Lindsey said. “I’m all for the ability for me or others to choose what to do with their body.”
Aguirre and Lindsey believe the first thing O’Rourke should tackle is a state abortion ban if elected.