Uvalde shooting and border only dominate Texas governor’s debate
EDINBURGH, Texas (AP) — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday night that Texas would send busloads of migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to more cities and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke promised more laws strict gun laws as parents whose children were killed in the Uvalde school shooting stood outside an auditorium hosting the only debate ahead of the November election.
The pledges reflected how eager Abbott and O’Rourke are to bring starkly different issues to light with just three weeks to go before early voting begins in a competitive Texas governor’s race that is one of the most watched – and most expensive – mid-terms of 2022.
On abortion, which is now banned in Texas, Abbott didn’t hesitate to sign a law that allows no exceptions for rape victims, as the restrictions create stumbling blocks for some Republicans who are wary of voter backlash. .
But Abbott was more assured while defending his spectacular Texas border steps that are the centerpiece of his campaign for a third term. Sharing a scene with O’Rourke for the first time, Abbott bragged about a $4 billion operation that included migrant jails and buses in New York, Chicago and Washington and slammed President Joe Biden by name as much as his underdog opponent sitting across from him. .
He didn’t say where Texas would send buses next that refocused the race on immigration, but defended destinations to some of the country’s largest Democratic-run cities as practical, not political.
“There will be other cities in the future that will also welcome migrants, because we will continue to have to move migrants because Joe Biden continues to allow more illegal immigrants into the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
O’Rourke called the mission a failure and attacked Abbott over the number of migrant crossings remaining high despite the governor’s mission escalating over the past year.
“We’ve been eight years as governor, and that’s what we have on our border,” O’Rourke said.
The debate did not have a live audience, but outside the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, parents of some of the 19 children killed in the Robb Elementary School massacre supported O’Rourke after he lashed out at Abbott for his rejection of new gun laws.
The presence of five Uvalde families in Edinburgh, a border region that has become a central backdrop for November’s midterm elections, underscored the lingering anger over one of the deadliest classroom shootings in the United States. United.
Polls show a single-digit race, but the debate stakes were particularly high for O’Rourke in what remains a rocky climb to become the first Democrat to win a statewide office in Texas in nearly 30 years.
Abbott, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who, in eight years as governor, eased gun restrictions in Texas and signed legislation scrapping background checks for concealed handguns, dismissed the calls for stricter gun control since the attack in Uvalde, which also killed two teachers.
The families of Uvalde put at the top of their demands the raising of the minimum age to buy an AR-15 type rifle like the one used in shooting from 18 to 21 years old. Florida raised the minimum age weeks after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School deadly mass shooting under a law signed by then-Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Abbott said raising the age would be “unconstitutional” due to recent court rulings, an assessment criticized by legal experts.
“No parent should lose a child and we want to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. We want to end school shootings,” Abbott said of raising the age to buy toys. AR-15 type weapons. “But we can’t do that by making false promises.”
O’Rourke, who was haunted in his campaign by his support for confiscating such weapons when he ran for president in 2019, did not respond directly when asked if he still supported the position. “I’m all for making progress,” he said.
Like many Democrats running in November, O’Rourke draws inspiration from outrage over abortion access and mass shootings — issues that have spurred voters elsewhere. But as Texas Democrats also know, those same issues failed to carry them through previous elections.
While no further debates between the two are scheduled, this won’t be the last time more than 17 million registered voters in Texas will see Abbott and O’Rourke on television ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Both are lightning waves with attacking commercials in what will become one of the most expensive races in the country this year. Abbott hoarded nearly $50 million before O’Rourke even entered the race last year and launched new spots this week calling the Democrat a “crook.”
O’Rourke, who remains one of Democrats’ most prolific fundraisers after his 2018 Senate and 2020 presidential failures, quickly raised more than $30 million in the first half and attacked Abbott about of the new abortion ban in Texas. in its first announcements this month.
Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg contributed to this report.
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