DALLAS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke has embarked on a 49-day tour of Texas that will take him to at least 65 different counties and includes more than 70 public events.
It’s an ambitious trip, even for a seasoned political traveler such as O’Rourke.
The former congressman says he wants to listen to Texans and plans to discuss the typical issues you’ll hear in an election season: increasing public school funding, paying teachers more, expanding Medicaid and improving the cost-of-living in Texas.
But, one week after inflation in the U.S. rose 9.1%, the fastest growth in four decades, expect this issue to be a major political driver in our state through the Nov. 8 election.
O’Rourke says he’ll certainly talk about it while on the road.
“The number one driver of inflation in the state of Texas is Greg Abbott,” O’Rourke said on Inside Texas Politics. “Our property taxes have gone up $20 billion in the seven years that he’s been governor. That’s a 40% increase. On average, our utility bills are going up 45 bucks a month after the power grid failed in the energy capital of the world.”
Two polls this summer show that O’Rourke has closed the gap on Gov. Abbott.
The most recent one from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs shows only five percentage points separate Abbott and O’Rourke, 49%-44%.
And the latest UT/Texas Politics Project poll shows Abbott’s lead over O’Rourke shrinking to just six points.
Republican political consultant Matt Mackowiak recently told Inside Texas Politics that the current margin in the race for governor comes while public debate is raging over gun control, the overturning of Roe and border politics.
He also says we’re still in the dog days of summer and during those months polls sample registered voters, not likely voters (both of the above polls used registered voters). And he says if Democrats pivot back to talking about the economy, it’s a sign their strategy isn’t working.
O’Rourke, on the other hand, thinks inflation will work against Republicans in Texas. And he never strayed too far from that point while talking to Inside Texas Politics.
“He still hasn’t fixed the grid, but we’re left holding the bag with higher utility bills. The cost of groceries have gone up since he shut down U.S.-Mexico trade. So, I think that inflation is going to work against Greg Abbott,” said the Democrat.
Inside Texas Politics has extended a number of invitations for Gov. Abbott to appear on the broadcast, but he has so far declined.
As for his challenger, O’Rourke says he’ll keep up his momentum during his road tour of Texas by listening.
“We’re going to the places that so often are written off or take for granted and talking about the issues that matter most,” he said.