AUSTIN, Texas - The primaries are over, leaving just two candidates standing in the race for the top spot in Texas.
Incumbent Greg Abbott appears to have defeated seven other Republicans in the March primary with 69% of the vote, securing his party's nomination in his re-election bid. Beto O'Rourke claimed the Democratic nomination, defeating four others with 92% of the vote.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a commanding lead over Democrat challenger Beto O’Rourke out of the gate, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
Some major issues for the campaign trail include Texas's controversial and embattled abortion law SB 8, concerns about border security and Operation Lone Star, and the response to Winter Storm Uri and power grid failures last February.
Let's take a look at Abbott and O'Rourke's positions on these issues and more:
Greg Abbott has been serving as governor of Texas since 2015 and is currently running for his third term in office. He has also served as Texas Attorney General from 2002 to 2015 and was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court and served from 1995 to 2001.
According to Abbott's biography on his campaign website, Abbott "continues to build on his record as a strong conservative leader who fights to preserve Texas values and ensure the Lone Star State remains the best place to raise a family, build a business, and create greater opportunity for all."
In May 2021, Abbott signed the controversial abortion ban, SB 8 into law, which prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.
According to his campaign website, during his tenure as governor, Texas has banned selling aborted fetuses for profit, increased funding for adoption services and banned partial birth abortions.
Abbott says in addition to his previous efforts, he wants to prevent cities and counties from using tax dollars to fund abortions.
In September 2021, Abbott signed HB 9 into law which is designed to provide an additional $1.8 billion in state funding for border security over the next two years.
Abbott also stated on his campaign website that he signed legislation requiring state agencies to participate in E-Verify to ensure state money goes only to those eligible to work in the United States.
In 2017, Abbott signed SB 4 into law, which banned sanctuary cities in Texas and allowed police officers to ask about a person's immigration status and threatened sheriffs and police chiefs with jail time if they don't comply with federal authorities.
Abbott also recently established Operation Lone Star to combat human trafficking and drug smuggling by integrating DPS with the Texas National Guard and deploying air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to high threat areas, says a release from the governor's office in March 2021. The operation has faced criticism and a Travis County judge recently ruled that part of the operation "violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and represents an impermissible attempt to intrude on federal immigration policy," according to Travis County DA José Garza.
As part of his 2022 Securing Texans plan, Abbott is also recommending:
- Doubling general revenue appropriations for Texas DPS to add personnel, technology and tools for added surveillance at the border
- Collaborating and coordinating between law enforcement agencies, all border states and the federal government through data sharing to combat international cartels
- Increasing funds for the Border Prosecution Unit
- Scaling up the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force in Houston and adding task forces in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Corpus Christi and Weslaco
In 2015, Abbott signed SB 925 which, according to the TEA, establishes literacy achievement academies to provide "high-quality, face-to-face" professional development to public school teachers who instruct students in kindergarten through third grade.
In 2019, Abbott signed HB 3 which increased funding and created a new early education allotment while requiring all prekindergarten services offered to eligible four-year-old students to be full day instead of half-day and to meet requirements adopted by the Legislature in 2015.
In his 2022 education plans, Abbott is also recommending:
- Establishing a pilot program to create optional Reading Excellence Teams for schools with low third-grade reading scores
- Create Literacy Achievement Academies with a curriculum focused on reading, writing, and incorporating technology to improve teacher development
- Create Math Achievement Academies modeled on the Texas Reading Initiative’s Reading Academies that will train K-3 teachers in numeracy instruction and technology
- Provide funding to districts that opt to implement a gold standard, high quality, accountable prekindergarten program
- Require prekindergarten providers that receive state funding to set benchmarks and evaluate improvement, and to report this data to TEA
- Develop research-based professional development for prekindergarten teachers that incorporate the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines and standards
- Develop a strategic plan to encourage parents of eligible four-year-old children to enroll their children in state-based prekindergarten programs, rather than Head Start
- Require campuses to publish a campus report card, which includes the campus A through F rating, financial efficiency rating, and parental campus preferences on their website homepages.
- Create a transparency system in which all school districts and campuses must make capacity of their facilities and their current student enrollment publicly available.
- Establish the A through F school district rating system at the campus level and require school campuses to publish their FAST financial efficiency results.
- Strengthen parents’ ability to petition the Commissioner of Education to change campus management
- Create a Texas Achievement School District as a method by which failing elementary school campuses can be improved
- Ensure that bonuses paid to school districts for passing scores on AP and IB exams are transferred directly to teachers
- Support UTeach and similar programs that endeavor to recruit and prepare STEM majors for the teaching profession
- Increase appropriations to TEA that support the Teach for America program
- Create Reading-to-Learn Academies for professional educators in the fourth and fifth grades with a curriculum focused teaching strategy to improve comprehension across all subjects
- Provide for a public education campus leadership program to train principals and other campus leadership staff
- Create a technology grant program in order to expand access to technologies that are necessary to improve access to high-quality digital learning at campuses rated D or F
- Improve student access to courses provided through the Texas Virtual School Network in order to propel Texas to the top tier among the states for digital learning
- Provide online tutoring services for students preparing for mandatory end-of-course exams to increase passage rates on state assessments
- Create "innovation grants" to encourage school districts to develop or implement blended online education models proven effective in the classroom
- Fund professional development for teachers at schools wishing to implement individualized, blended learning classes
In 2017, Abbott signed HB 2908, which made it a hate crime to threaten, unlawfully restrain or assault a law enforcement officer or judge. The law, inspired by the July 2016 murders of five police officers in Dallas, increases the punishment for crimes against peace officers.
That same year, Abbott signed SB 12 to fund a $25 million statewide grant program to provide personal rifle-resistant body armor to law enforcement officers in Texas.
As part of his Securing Texans plan, Abbott is also recommending:
- Comprehensive care for child sex trafficking victims
- Preventing sex crimes and assisting victims by funding crime lab testing of sexual assault evidence, requiring sex offenders to register before being released to the public, automating the sex offender registry system, increase appropriations to the Attorney General's office to add 100 more certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs)
- Protecting children by increasing penalty for kidnappings a child from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony
- Curbing domestic homicides by creating Domestic Violence High Risk Teams of law enforcement, medical professionals and victim advocates, expand GPS monitoring to include domestic violence abusers
- Create civil liability for those who post illicit images online without consent, also known as "revenge porn"
- Enhance school safety by giving open-enrollment charter schools authority to commission or appoint peace officers, provide free active shooter response training to schools, police departments, colleges and universities, and open enrollment charter schools, create a training program for AG staff to educate on school shooter scenarios
Texas Power Grid
Last February, Texas experienced a massive winter storm that caused power grid failures across the state and claimed more than 200 lives. In response, Abbott signed Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3 in June.
The bills, an effort to rebuild trust in the state’s power grid after the winter storm in February, were among his emergency items for state lawmakers to take up during the 87th regular session.
SB 2 restructured the makeup of ERCOT, which manages most of the state's electric grid. All board members now must be residents of Texas. The size was also scaled down.
SB 3 mandated companies that generate electricity to weatherize their power plants. The upgrades were drafted to prevent blackouts and freeze-ups. The legislation includes fines of up to $1 million for failing to comply.
In September 2021, Abbott signed the controversial election reform bill SB 1 into law, which has sparked lawsuits. SB 1 bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting and sets new rules for mail-in ballots including new ID requirements. It also enacts new regulations on early voting hours and increases protections for partisan poll watchers.
Beto O'Rourke is the founder of Texas-based Powered by People, an organization that has helped to register over 250,000 unregistered Texan voters since Dec. 2019.
O'Rourke also previously served as a city council member in his hometown of El Paso and as a U.S. Rep for District 16 from 2013 to 2019. He also previously ran for US Senate against Ted Cruz in 2018 and for President in 2020.
O'Rourke says that as governor to address abortion and reproductive health, he would:
- Repeal SB 8
- Expand Medicaid
- Increase Medicaid coverage for pregnant women to one year post-partum
- Launch an aggressive program to combat Texas's maternal mortality crisis
O'Rourke says to address to the situation at the Texas border he would:
- Work with Texans to develop reforms to have a legal, orderly immigration system and uphold asylum laws
- Work with state Congressional delegation and national partners to pursue long-lasting solutions that benefit the Texas economy, encourage more job creation, and guarantee security at the border
O'Rourke says that under Abbott's administration, Texas schools have been underfunded by $4,000 per student compared to the national average and that Texas teachers are underpaid by about $10,000 compared to those in other states. He also claims that educators who have retired after 2004 have not received cost of living adjustments on their retirement benefits.
He says to address public education, he would:
- Fully fund public schools
- Reject any effort to send public tax dollars to private education
- Raise teacher pay
- Expand loan forgiveness programs
- Strengthen health care and retirement benefits for educations
- End the state's "over-reliance on high-stakes, high-pressure standardized testing" to instead focus on measures to better inform instruction, address learning gaps and provide appropriate feedback to educators
O'Rourke says that under Abbott's administration, state troopers have been taken off Texas roads while traffic fatalities have hit a 40-year high and permitless carry was enacted against law enforcement advice.
He says to address public safety, he would:
- Repeal permitless carry
- Make sure law enforcement has the resources to prevent and solve violent crime
- Invest in mental health services, crisis counselors and social workers to reduce the burden on police and to address homelessness, mental health challenges and substance use more effectively
- Bring law enforcement and community leaders together to ensure officers are well trained and accountable to the communities they serve
Texas Power Grid
O'Rourke says that to address concerns about the Texas power grid that failed in February 2021, he will:
- Fix the power grid to prioritize Texas families, not massive energy corporations
- Investigate and hold accountable the energy companies that price gouged Texans as families froze and make sure they are never allowed to do it again
- Provide rate relief and direct assistance to Texans being forced to pay higher utility bills after the storm
- Fully weatherize the power grid and natural gas supply so that our energy infrastructure doesn’t fail in extreme weather
- Connect Texas to the national grid, so the state can draw down extra power during emergencies, and bring in billions of dollars in new state revenue by selling excess power during normal times
- Invest in energy efficiency programs that not only increase the reliability of the grid, but also send money back to Texans to lower their utility bills
O'Rourke says that Texas is the hardest state in which to register to vote and cast a ballot, even before SB 1.
He says to ensure voting rights and access, he would:
- Pass online and same-day voter registration
- Expand eligible forms of voter ID
- Reduce obstacles to voting by mail
- Expand access to polling sites
- Establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions