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Analysis of Beto O’Rourke’s 2022 campaign

Annabella Mireles
O’Rourke takes questions from the El Paso press at the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center for his college tour at UTEP Oct. 11.

According to the Texas Tribune, Beto O’Rourke was arguably a weak candidate, going into the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race but was the closest Democrat to challenge two high-level Republican incumbent seats within the last six years.  

Texas has held a Republican governorship since 1995, and this year, O’Rourke sought to unseat Governor Greg Abbott. This was O’Rourke’s’ second campaign since 2018 against Senator Ted Cruz, in which he raised over $80 million and lost by 2.6 percentage points, the closest any Democrat has fallen to a Republican in over 20 years.  

Despite what many would find defeating, O’Rourke decided to give another shot with substantial changes in his campaign strategies.  

In 2018, Texas Monthly and Pineapple Street Media interviewed Senator Cruz upon O’Rourke’s announcement that he raised $38.1 million in the third quarter.  

Cruz was asked why O’Rourke was trailing him by nearly ten points despite raising almost triple Cruz’s amount. Cruz also explained how O’Rourke resonated with liberals nationwide but not with Texan values. 

“The reason is simple. He is running hard, hard left like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.” Cruz said. “The positions he’s taking, the record he’s running on is far out of step with the people of Texas.”  

Many agree that O’Rourke’s campaign narrative grew moderately since. Perhaps it explains why his 2022 gubernatorial campaign strongly emphasized representing not just democrats or republicans but everybody. His biography on both Twitter and Instagram state, “I’m running for governor to serve ALL the people of Texas.”  

This transformation is highly evident in O’Rourke’s position on gun reform. During a 2019 presidential debate, O’Rourke proposed a mandatory assault weapon buyback program, recalling the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting and other gun-related massacres. 

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, AK-47.” O’Rourke said. 

However, during a podcast episode in “Unlocking Us” with Brene Brown, released Oct. 17 of this year, O’Rourke provided a different perspective on this issue.  

“It’s fun to shoot, and I’ve shot AR-15s and AK-47s, and I can attest to the fact that they are fun to shoot.” O’Rourke said.  

He explained how he wanted to defend the second amendment by supporting universal background checks, a red flag law, and raising the age from 18-21 to purchase an assault weapon, all of which could potentially gain bipartisan support.  

O’Rourke strategically highlighted former Trump supporters, Republicans, and gun owners in his favor during the campaign trail. For instance, in a reel video on Instagram, a mother and gun owner who comes from a conservative family and town speaks on her switch in voting for O’Rourke. 

“I heard tonight, Beto out of his own mouth, say that he wants to protect our second amendment but have reasonable and responsible gun legislation and that he wants to prioritize the lives of children.”  

She was on the fence about Beto, but after listening to him, she stated she was completely sold and wanted to do everything she could to ensure he got elected. This strategy extended into one of Beto’s main campaign platform issues, abortion. 

“Greg Abbott and the Texas Medical Board are telling physicians how to practice medicine, and that might be you can’t perform a lifesaving procedure [abortion] for a woman having a miscarriage,” said a Catholic, pro-life woman in a social media post on O’Rourke’s page.  

Despite this perspective from a voter and O’Rourke’s broad pro-choice outreach, not as many women turned out to vote during the early voting period in El Paso as expected by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar. El Paso Matters polling result analysis showed men outnumbered women at the polls on almost every early voting date.  

Over the last decade, Latino voters in Texas are showing a red turnout over the past decade. According to the Texas Standard news show, the Republican party is taking advantage of economic issues to gain support from Latino voters in Texas.  

“For Latinos, the most important issue is being able to support their family. And that’s what the Republicans have been able to capitalize on,” said Sharon Navarro in an interview with Texas Standard.  

Based on the election results, Texas is far from turning blue. O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign explored a new approach but did not appeal to all Texan voters. However, it might serve as a learning platform for incoming Democrats asking themselves when and how Texas will turn blue. 

Josie Avila is the audience and engagement editor and can be reached at [email protected]; Joseline Avila on LinkedIn.       

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About the Contributors
Josie Avila
Josie Avila, Audience & Engagement Editor
Joseline “Josie” Avila, is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) pursuing a double major in communication studies and political science and aspires to be a bilingual news anchor. She is a first-generation college student and the youngest sibling of five women. In the upcoming Spring of 2023, she will be studying, and interning, in Washington D.C. as an Archer Fellow.
Annabella Mireles
Annabella Mireles, Photo Editor
Annabella Mireles is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in digital media production and minoring in film. She is the photo editor at the Prospector newspaper and Minero magazine as well as owning her own photography business. She plans on pursuing photography full time.
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Analysis of Beto O’Rourke’s 2022 campaign