Election

With Midterms Coming Up, Texas Democrats and Republicans Ramp Up Media Push and Attack Ads

Texas Democrats gear up for the midterm election with a statewide media tour.
Texas Democrats gear up for the midterm election with a statewide media tour. Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash
With the midterm elections coming up in November, Texas Democrats and Republicans are trading barbs and ramping up media pushes to win over voters.

Texas Democrats
recently announced a statewide, month-long series of press events called Democrats Deliver for Texas Tour. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott has released a series of ads blasting his Democratic opponent, Beto O'Rourke.

Ike Hajinazarian, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, said the tour will focus on what he described as successes under President Joe Biden and will promote the party's state policy agenda.

Referring to the deadly February 2021 winter storm, Hajinazarian said Abbott "didn't lift a finger to fix the grid after that happened." He added, "What we really need at the state level are elected officials who care enough about these issues to actually take real action."

The tour so far includes nine stops around Texas, each discussing topics such as communities of color, energy and abortion access.

“We [want] to show that Democrats are really fighting for kitchen table issues,” Hajinazarian said. “We’re delivering for infrastructure. We’re delivering for healthcare and working families and clean energy and making Texas the technological innovation hub of the world. … We’re focusing on things that are really impacting people’s lives.”

He said that the party is trying to tailor each event to its specific location, like focusing on veterans in San Antonio, which has a high veteran population, or on energy in Corpus Christi, where a man filed a lawsuit in the Nueces County Court against the state's grid operator over its "grossly negligent" response to the February 2021 freeze.

A Democratic Party event in Dallas, for instance, will focus on technological innovation.

“Here in North Texas, we are absolutely booming in terms of the tech innovation that’s happening here, thanks in no small part to the CHIPS and Science Act, which of course, was a Biden administration-led effort,” said Hajinazarian. “Because of the work that Democrats have been doing to invest in these innovations, you’re going to see North Texas continue to just boom.”

At the same time, Gov. Abbott and other Texas Republicans have ramped up their own campaigns to keep the state red.

On Monday, the governor's campaign launched a new ad attacking O'Rourke. In the 30-second clip, Abbott is superimposed in front of a supposed crime scene. "Across America, there are too many scenes like this," he says. "Beto O'Rourke's answer is to defund and dismantle police. He wants to punish the police, not the criminals."

Abbott then boasts that he has "deployed more law enforcement to crime hot spots" and has "cracked down on the revolving-door to keep violent criminal criminals off our streets."
The claim that O'Rourke supports defunding the police stemmed from comments he made on a podcast in 2020, as protesters around the country rallied after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd.

In that interview, O'Rourke said that "completely dismantling those police forces and rebuilding them" may happen "in some necessary cases."

But O'Rourke has also said that he doesn't support defunding the police, and a spokesperson for his campaign recently told the Texas Tribune that the Democratic candidate repeatedly voted to increase the police budget during his tenure on the El Paso City Council.

During a July campaign stop in Pecos, the Tribune noted, O'Rourke told an attendee he didn't support defunding the police. "I want to make sure we can count on the police and that means making sure they have the resources and funding they need, the training that they need," he said.

A day after Abbott's ad dropped, O'Rourke's campaign released its own ad, taking aim at the governor's comments on reproductive rights. The 30-second montage includes a clip of Abbott insisting Texas will "eliminate all rapists" and another in which he says impregnated rape survivors "can get the Plan B pill" rather than have an abortion.

In late August, The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler released a poll that showed Abbott had a seven-point lead over O'Rourke. Among the issues voters surveyed ranked as most important were immigration, guns and abortion.

In recent months, Abbott has made national headlines for sending undocumented migrants on buses to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago. While the governor insists it's Texas' way of fighting the Biden administration's "open-border policies," critics have called the busing a political stunt.

Still, Hajinazarian insists that Texas Democrats are optimistic about the upcoming midterms. He hopes his party will win over voters who are angry over the state's decision to ban abortions.

“Texas Republicans, they’ve pushed this extremism so far, and people have just had enough,” he said. “They think that they have a mandate to push the most extremist laws in the country, they’re governing to such a tiny fringe of the population, and people aren’t going to deal with it anymore.”

O'Rourke is currently at the end of his "A Drive for Texas" tour, which includes more than 70 stops around the state. On Wednesday, he held a campaign event in Denton.

O'Rourke's campaign has said he accepted offers to debate Abbott four more times, although Abbott's campaign has said the governor intends to participate in only one debate with his Democratic challenger. That debate is scheduled for Sept. 30 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. 
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli