Greg Abbott-Beto O’Rourke debate: Key points
Greg Abbott and Beto O'Rourke debate ahead of Texas gubernatorial polls
The debate took place at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, Texas
Abortion, immigration and guns are core issues
Texas Governor Greg Abbott faced his Democratic rival in the upcoming gubernatorial elections Beto O’Rourke on Friday for the one and only live debate ahead of the polls. The debate took place at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg at 7 pm. The debate did not have a live audience.
In Texas, the gubernatorial race has heated up more than expected. Abbott, who is ahead by 7 points, is not all as stable as he seems or at least wishes to be. Texas is a red state and Abbott was always in the lead. It is to O’Rourke’s credit that he has managed to have an impact on the narrative, especially on gun restrictions in a state extremely touchy about its Second Amendment rights.
Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial elections will largely depend on how the electorate feels on the issues of gun legislation, immigration and abortion, three issues not particular to the state but critical in the national narrative.
On gun legislation, Texas would otherwise have a very straight point of view. Texans love their guns and don’t want the state to have a great deal of rules. But the Uvalde massacre has struck a chord among ordinary Texans. Moreover, families of many Uvalde victims have come out in support of Beto O’Rourke saying the Texas governor hasn’t done anything significant since 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in May this year.
On Friday, nearly 35 such family members took a five-hour bus journey from Uvalde to Edinburg to join a watch party of the O’Rourke-Abbot debate organised by the Democrat’s team.
Beto O'Rourke pulled strongly at the emotional strings and said Abbott had lost the moral authority to govern Texas because he had done nothing following the Uvalde massacre.
Governor Abbott, during the debate, said school shootings are a result of mental illness and cannot be solved by legislation or by raising the age to carry kinds of guns. O'Rourke maintained that he will raise the age and work towards gun control.
Immigration in Texas is one of the most hotly-contested political subjects and things will not be different in the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Political observers say Abbott is likely to play up the threat from the borders in order to secure votes for a Republican nominee. If elected, this will be Abbott’s third term as Texas Governor.
Abbott spoke of Operation Lone Star, a programme aimed at reducing the number of immigrants crossing into the state by deploying National Guard service members and Public Safety Department troopers along Texas’ borders and providing greater funding to counties on the border to counter the immigration problem. Both O'Rourke and Abbott agreed that Operation Lone Star has been a failure.
O’Rourke will have to walk a tightrope on immigration. He cannot say in Texas what Washington liberals say in their living rooms. O’Rourke must acknowledge that illegal immigration is an issue in Texas and outline his vision to better deal with people coming in without documents. Nearly 2 million illegal immigrants passed into the United States this year, federal government data show.
On abortion, Abbott and O’Rourke share significantly different visions cutting exactly along bipartisan lines. O’Rourke slammed Abbott for the strict Texas law that restricts nearly all abortions in the state.
In response, Abbott repeated Republican ‘pro-life’ theories. Abbott’s position on abortion stood firmly on the legitimacy offered by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Abbott said that he and his wife have always been pro-life. He added that women could rather use Plan B pills.
Both O'Rourke and the debate moderator questioned Abbott on the issue of availability of Plan B pills.
The Texas power grid was another critical question debated between the Governor and his rival. O'Rourke and Abbott disagreed on the data points each and brought. While O'Rourke said Texans were seeing high inflation in energy prices, citing the rate of increase in power prices, Abbott maintained that energy prices in Texas are lower than that in California.
Governor Abbott further said that he was very confident about the power grid's resilience after a hot summer.
O'Rourke used the opportunity to remind viewers of the 2021 blackouts. He added: "Now we are all paying $45 more on average on our monthly utility bills. It's the Abbott tax."
Beto O'Rourke was extremely critical of the Abbott administration's work on education. He said educational outcomes in Texas are among the lowest in the country and cited the low pay of teachers who are forced to take up second jobs to eke out a living. Addressing teachers, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee said: "I've got your back," and promised that if he were governor, teachers will get more time in the classroom. He further said that teachers will get a pay raise, and compared the salary of teacher pay between the state and the national average.
Beto O'Rourke said teachers in Texas received an average $4,000 less than the national average.
Governor Abbott was asked if he too would raise teacher salaries if re-elected. Abbott said teacher's salaries will continue to increase the way they have. He also spoke of a state programme he has initiated that allows teachers to earn up to $100,000.
"I'm running for re-election to keep Texas number 1, cut your property taxes, create jobs, secure the border, keep dangerous criminals behind bars, and get deadly Fentanyl off our streets. Together, we will keep Texas number 1," Abbott said in conclusion.