Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke sparred in their first and likely only televised debate on Friday night in the state's gubernatorial race. The two hammered each other over immigration policy, gun control, abortion and more.
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Immigration questions set the tone
The night's first questions centered on immigration, a major issue in the border state of Texas.
Abbott defended his administration's immigration policy on the southern border, saying he is “making sure that we are keeping our communities safe.”
“This is completely different than the way things would be under Beto,” Abbott said of a potential O’Rourke governorship.
O’Rourke hit Abbott for increased encounters at the southern border even after Abbott’s immigration policies.
“What we need is a safe, legal, orderly path for anyone who wants to come here to work, to join family or to seek asylum,” O’Rourke said.
Crucial context: Gov. Greg Abbott's migrant busing program costing Texas $12 million
Gun control, Uvalde mass shooting
The mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas this year, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, anchored a conversation around gun control.
In response to a clip of Abbott saying “It could’ve been worse,” after the shooting, the current governor said his words were in response to incomplete information from law enforcement at the time.
“I’m a parent,” O’Rourke began in his comments on school safety. “This governor has not lifted a finger”
Abbott said he is “still against red flag laws for the reason that it would deny a lawful Texas gun owner their constitutional right to due process.”
Red flag laws allow family members, police or other officials to petition courts and temporarily restrict an individual's access to firearms
'A bad day for ... hope': Another school shooting. More dead kids. Why gun control advocates see no end in sight
Abortion, a key midterm issue, gets several questions
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, the high court effectively made abortion a major issue in the November midterms.
Abbott defended Texas’ near total abortion ban, which includes no exceptions for rape or incest. He pointed to availability of Plan B and emergency contraception in the state.
“Not only should (Plan B) be readily available, but the state of Texas is going to pay for it, to make sure it is available for (victims of rape),” he said
But when asked if he thought Plan B was an alternative to abortion for victims of rape or incest, Abbott said, “it depends on what you mean by alternative.”
O’Rourke slammed Abbott for the state’s abortion ban, saying it is “the most extreme abortion ban in America. No exception for rape, no exception for incest, it begins at conception.”
If elected, O’Rourke said he would reinstate the constitutional right to an abortion in the state of Texas.
“I will fight to make sure that every woman in Texas can make her own decisions about her own body, her own future and her own healthcare.”
Other notable remarks
“I’ve got your back,” O’Rourke said in an address to teachers, whom he said he would give a pay raise to if elected. Abbott in response said he has not only given teachers raises in the past but plans to increase their salaries again in another term as governor.
In discussions on the Texas power grid, O’Rourke said the state is “not ready for this next winter.” Abbott accused his opponent of “fear-mongering” and said the energy system is “more resilient, more reliable than ever before.”
“Of course I don’t,” O’Rourke responded to questions of whether or not he supports the defunding of police.
What else is happening in the midterms?
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Takeaways: Immigration, abortion at the Texas gubernatorial debate