Waiting for O’Rourke: Will Beto Ever Announce He’s Running for Texas Governor?

Some say Beto O'Rourke could be Texas' next governor.
Some say Beto O'Rourke could be Texas' next governor. Melissa Hennings
Back in February, we reported that Democratic darling and 2018 candidate for U.S. Senate Beto O’Rourke was flirting with the idea of running for Texas governor. Now — nearly four months and a disastrous winter storm later — O’Rourke is still making headlines, but he hasn't offered any clarity.

Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that O’Rourke “hasn’t ruled out anything” regarding a challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott but “isn’t saying much else.” That leads us to ask: When exactly will O’Rourke be ready to announce that he’s jumping back into the political ring, or is he content to keep stringing us along?

The state’s Democrats are certainly ready for an answer, with Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa telling the AP, “Impatience is not the word for it. But anxious is.”

One of O’Rourke’s top aides told the outlet that the politician hasn’t made formal steps toward a campaign, such as enlisting staff or phoning donors. There also isn’t a timeline for O’Rourke’s decision, but he’s taking the thought more seriously now that he’s wrapped teaching virtual courses at two Texas colleges.

For one of those classes, O’Rourke ran a seminar on voting rights struggles, which comes at a time when Republican lawmakers are gunning to impose draconian election restrictions.

“These jokers can’t even keep the lights on, or the heat on, or the water on when the temperature drops. Now they want to take away our election?” O’Rourke said during a protest at the state Capitol earlier this month, according to AP.

Actor Matthew McConaughey is also reportedly considering a gubernatorial bid, as is Republican Party of Texas chair Allen West. Earlier this month, car dealership mogul and former state Sen. Don Huffines also launched his own primary challenge.

“Impatience is not the word for it. But anxious is.” – Gilberto Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party chair

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Shortly after the AP’s article hit the web, the word “Beto” began trending on Twitter.

Many conservatives dismissed the idea of another O’Rourke run, considering he lost both the 2018 senatorial race against Ted Cruz and the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Meanwhile, some liberals celebrated the idea.

The Voter Protection Project, a progressive super PAC, noted that the Lone Star State is now a “critical battleground for voting rights.”

“We need a candidate who can boost turnout and ensure every Texan can make their voice heard at the ballot box moving forward,” the group wrote in a tweet. “We know Beto can be that candidate!”
Others weren’t so sure, though, with some saying another loss could ensure O’Rourke’s political demise. Many doubt that Texans are ready for someone so progressive, especially given O’Rourke’s declaration that he would ban AR-15s and AK-47s following the 2019 El Paso mass shooting, which left 23 people dead.

Although he’s largely stayed mum on the matter, O’Rourke has scattered a few breadcrumbs for his fans.

In a radio interview earlier this year, O’Rourke said he’d “think about” challenging the Republican incumbent. And later in a tweet, the Democrat promised to do “everything in [his] power” to help Texans elect a governor who looks out for constituents instead of special interests— “whether or not” he himself runs.
The Observer reached out to O’Rourke for comment but didn’t hear back by publication time. Looks like he’s just fine keeping Texans waiting.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter