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Friday, September 22, 2023

Academics & Research

Race for Texas governor heats up as midterms near

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a race that is heating up as the Nov. 8 election nears. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a race that is heating up as the Nov. 8 election nears. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

As midterm elections inch closer, a University survey shows Gov. Greg Abbott just is polling just 5 percent higher than his challenger, Beto O’Rourke. With the polls tighter than in recent years, UH professors weighed in about the possibility of Texas turning blue during the Nov. 8 midterm elections, citing financials and voter turnout as the most crucial points.

In the 2018 election, Abbott beat Democrat Lupe Valdez by 10 points, and in 2014, he defeated former state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, even more decisively by 20 percent. Since then, politics and the state of the world have changed drastically with the pandemic, Joe Biden’s presidency and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Renée Cross, the executive director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs, said while it is possible to believe that Democrats could win this year, it’s not very likely due to the low turnout amongst younger voters.

“In order for O’Rourke to really remain competitive, he is going to have to turn out not only the Democratic base but young voters in particular that do overwhelmingly lean Democratic,” Cross said. “He’s going to have to build a coalition of those folks, plus independent voters that have grown in recent years in Texas.”

Considering the relatively high rate of political engagement among college students, younger demographics could be the difference between a red and a blue victory in November, said UH political science professor emeritus Richard Murray.

In addition, recent events, like the overturning of Roe, could impact the outcome of the midterm elections.

“Based on what we’re seeing around the country, I think that we’re going to have historically high levels of voting, and that’s the case in Texas,” Murray said. “That doesn’t mean that the Democrats are going to win; it just means that they’re in a position to be more competitive.”

As campaigning time runs out, political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus believes that funding will make the key difference in the outcome of this election.

“Statewide races have been getting more competitive, and this gubernatorial race with high energy on both sides promises to be close,” Rottinghaus said. “Republicans have a lot to defend politically, but their structural advantages in money and turnout make them hard to beat.”

While republicans still have the financial upper hand, O’Rourke raised the most money a state office candidate in Texas ever has in a single reporting period.

When speaking to The Cougar in April, O’Rourke acknowledged how young voters are the key to his potential win.

“Young people on college campuses, we’re gonna be able to win this election with their support, with their help,” O’Rourke said.

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