Beto O'Rourke to challenge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022, report says

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Former El Paso congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke may be looking to challenge Texas Governor Greg Abbott in the 2022 elections.

Axios reported Sunday that O'Rourke will make "an announcement expected later this year" declaring his run at the governorship.

O'Rourke is a former El Paso City Council representative, three-term congressman, 2018 U.S. senator candidate and voting rights activist.

A poll from the Dallas Morning News reported that O'Rourke is narrowing the gap with Abbott. Hypothetical matchups between the two show O'Rourke trailing Abbott 37% - 42%, O'Rourke faced a 12-point deficit in July, 33%-45%.

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Fireside Campaigns, a digital and communications consulting firm that's working with O'Rourke, provided the El Paso Times with a statement from David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and longtime adviser.

"No decision has been made," Wysong said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."

No Democrat has been elected governor of Texas since Ann Richards in 1990.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said he's been encouraging O'Rouke to enter the 2022 race ever since the 2020 election cycle ended on Election Day last November.

"I think everybody in the leadership in the state among the rank and file of this state is," Hinojosa said.

Until O'Rourke announces his decision, other potential candidates are sitting on their hands, given the former congressman's standing in the party and given his fundraising prowess, Hinojosa said.

"It's not only on the governor's race but in a lot of the down ballot races," Hinojosa said. "People are waiting to see what he does because it makes a big difference (who is) at the top of the ticket. It's certainly is going to increase the enthusiasm level."

Hinojosa said he has not yet heard a definitive answer but said O'Rourke's actions on behalf of fellow Democrats in the fight against the Republican-backed elections bill recently signed into law by Abbott speaks volumes.

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"He raised more than a half a million dollars for (Democratic) legislators and participated in marches and rallies all over the state of Texas," Hinojosa said. "I've been in politics for 40 years. That sure sounded like a person running for office to me."

Andrew White, the son of the late former Gov. Mark White and an unsuccessful candidate for the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor, said no Texan could energize the dispirited state party better than O'Rourke.

"I'm not an adviser to Beto, but I am a huge fan," White said. "And I would love to see him run for governor. And I really hope he does."

If he were advising O'Rourke, White said he would encourage him to redouble his efforts to bring more middle-of-the-road Texans into the Democratic camp.

"I know that he went to all 254 counties (in the 2018 U.S. Senate race), and that's truly amazing," White said. "But it's also it's more than that. It's speaking to their issues and there's some important issues out there that maybe aren't getting addressed."

Abbott's approval rating reached a high of 56% in April 2020, according to polls done by the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Politics Project, but has since dropped to 41% after taking hard-right positions on issues such as handling the COVID-19 pandemic and criminalizing abortions six weeks after conception.

Reporter John Moritz contributed to this story.

Anthony Jackson may be reached at ADJackson@elpasotimes.com and @TonyAnjackson on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Gov. Greg Abbott could face former US Rep. Beto O'Rourke in 2022

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