Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Bonham
Bonham, Texas – It was a political rally in Bonham on Wednesday, but the day’s first endorsement came when William Roberts greeted the crowd at Neighbors Place Winery and highly recommended elderberry wine.
“It’s medicinal,” someone shouted in the crowd.
There was standing room only in the sprawling wine bar when Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke stepped up to the microphone and told the crowd about a pleasant conversation he had had with Republicans lining the street outside.
“The genius of this nation is that we can discuss issues peacefully and then settle them at the ballot box,” O’Rourke remarked.
A very civil and thought-provoking discussion ensued, with no dog whistles to light up the base – and little of the open hostility that has become the hallmark of recent political discourse.
“It’s ultimately about the people, the conversation we’re going to have today,” O’Rourke said, listing election repression, the unwillingness to pay teachers what they deserve, the skyrocketing property taxes, failed Medicaid expansion, an unreliable power grid, and senseless and draconian drug policies as top priorities for Texas to address.
Fourth-generation Texan Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke served as U.S. Representative for Texas’ 16th congressional district from 2013 to 2019 before losing to Ted Cruz in a 2.6% U.S. Senate race. O’Rourke threw his hat into the ring for the 2020 US presidential election, but pulled out when the campaign stalled.
O’Rourke is now challenging incumbent Governor Greg Abbott in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election.
O’Rourke said Abbott pits Texans against each other by dwelling on divisive cultural differences.
The gubernatorial candidate called the election crackdown “the greatest peril of our lives.”
“Twelve percent of mail-in votes in Texas were thrown out – that’s our reality today,” O’Rourke said. “And there is no cavalry to our aid. It depends on each of us.”
“Seven out of 10 4th graders can’t read at grade level,” O’Rourke said. “Our children need universal all-day pre-kindergarten to master reading earlier. Here in Fannin County, when you enter the teaching profession, you can expect to earn $15,000 less than what you gets an average teacher. When are we going to pay our teachers what they’re worth? These teachers are a lifeline for our children. Cancel the STAAR test and stop telling teachers what version of history they can teach.
According to O’Rourke, Texas could add $10 billion to its coffers by expanding Medicaid.
“It’s your money, after all,” he remarked.
O’Rourke said 700 people died as a result of the collapse of the power grid in the February 2021 ice storm, adding that he believes Abbott “ignored every warning and then jacked up the price fuel”.
“A handful of energy companies pocketed $11 billion while Texans froze,” O’Rourke said.
Border inspections hurt businesses in both countries
O’Rourke also lamented Abbott’s recent decision to shut down commercial traffic entering that country from Mexico.
“Mexico is one of our major trading partners,” O’Rourke noted. “Two-thirds of our fruits and vegetables come from Mexico.”
In February alone, trade between the United States and Mexico was worth more than $56 billion, and Texas’ major ports of entry accounted for about 65% of trade between the two countries in 2021.
Drug policy failure
Every year, thousands of Texans say goodbye to the careers they worked for and have their futures thrown into doubt due to a marijuana possession conviction.
But that’s only half of the equation.
“Every year in Texas we spend half a billion dollars incarcerating Texans for a substance that is legal in most states and many countries,” O’Rourke told the crowd.
O’Rourke weighed in on a recent VA proposal that would move parts of Bonham VA to the metroplex.
“Who would make people drive two hours to Dallas to get promised services?” He asked.
It will be people…
O’Rourke offered his version of how to start solving many of the problems plaguing Texas, from rapidly escalating property taxes to gun violence — people working together to slowly build consensus through compromise, then go forward.
“It won’t be a political party and it won’t be a candidate…it will be the people,” O’Rourke said. “We can win this. It’s within our reach. “It’s up to the people…”