According to sources who have spoken with Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman who became a Democratic darling after nearly beating Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, he is getting closer to launching a run for governor of Texas.
Mr. O’Rourke has been calling Democratic leaders around Texas in recent weeks to inform them that he is seriously considering challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is up for re-election next year. He’s also started talking to fans about joining his campaign staff. According to the three persons, a decision might be made in the next weeks, possibly as early as October.
Democrats in Texas have been pressing Mr. O’Rourke to run for governor nearly since he bowed out of the 2020 presidential race, a rash attempt that tripped early and failed to garner traction in a crowded primary field.
Despite his difficulties on the national stage, Mr. O’Rourke has maintained a strong base of support in Texas, where many Democrats still have black-and-white Beto signs on their lawns and in their cars from the 2018 campaign. Mr. O’Rourke did not reply to requests for comment through phone or text messages.
Mr. O’Rourke’s longtime aide David Wysong stressed that “no decision has been made” on a governorship bid. The three Democratic officials who spoke about their meetings with Mr. O’Rourke did so on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations.
Since Ann Richards was elected governor of Texas in 1990, no Democrat has been elected. And no prominent Democrat has arisen to challenge Mr. Abbott in the upcoming election. The governor, who has amassed a war chest of more than $55 million, has been more preoccupied with shielding himself from Republican primary rivals on his right than with the general election. Democrats, on the other hand, see an opportunity.
Texas has swung from crisis to crisis in recent months, including a spike in flu deaths and a winter power outage, while Republican officials in Austin have moved the state even further to the right on topics ranging from firearms to elections to abortion. A majority of Texans told pollsters last month that they believed the state was moving in the wrong direction.
Mr. O’Rourke has remained active in Texas despite the political turbulence. “He hasn’t just been making statements; he’s been knocking on doors, leading marches, and organizing demonstrations throughout the state,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa.
Mr. Hinojosa claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a harsh new abortion restriction approved by the Texas Legislature had energized many Democrats in the state. The new law prohibits surgery after six weeks of pregnancy, and it is written in such a way that it will not be challenged in court right away.