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Sunday, December 5, 2021

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UH Democrats ecstatic about O’Rourke governor run


O'Rourke

Beto O’Rourke speaks to other presidential candidates during a debate at Texas State University in 2020. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Democrat Beto O’Rourke announced he was running for Texas Governor on Monday, contesting the seat which is now held by Republican Greg Abbott.

Members of UH Democrats and experts in political science provided their insight and shared their thoughts on how O’Rourke running for Governor may play out in the months leading up to the November election.

“O’Rourke has been a known figure for Democrats for several years,” said political science professor Brandon Rotthinghaus. “He was electric and 2018, emerging from a kind of relatively obscure position to rocket to the top of every Democrats list to kind of reinvigorate Texas.”

O’Rourke ran for incumbent Ted Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018, which he lost by a small margin. He also ran in the 2020 presidential election, but left the race before current president Joe Biden became the Democratic primary winner. 

With this turbulent history of political runs, Rottinghaus still believes that this run could have some pluses for Democrats. 

“One plus is that he raised a lot of money, as much as any Democrat running for Senate,” he said. “So there’s a tremendous amount of upside to him being in a race like that. The other is that he really stimulated down-ballot Democrats, and so even though he didn’t win, he was able to really ride and facilitate a wave that helped a lot of Democrats win in legislative seats.”

UH Democrats vice president Brett Robinson recalls how the organization helped boost O’Rourke’s candidacy in 2018.

“We block walked on campus, we phone banked, we did a lot to help him get as close as he did to winning that year,” Robinson said.

The organization is ecstatic about O’Rourke’s run for the highest ranked office in Texas, saying they anticipated his announcement. 

“It’s official and we’re really excited because we think he can really be at the top of the ticket,” Robinson said. “We think that he’ll be able to pull those people from his campaign because he has such a strong base, it’s basically like his own army. We think it’s really gonna bring people to the polls to support the down ticket candidates as well.”

College students may be key to help O’Rourke in his campaign, Rottinghaus added, and UH Democrats could be key in those efforts.

“The electorate is growing younger, because the next generation of voters are beginning to participate in the electoral process and are voting in bigger numbers,” Rottinghaus said. 

Although, he says there’s a trade-off, since younger voters tend to be less centrist than older voters, Rottinghaus believes that focusing on younger populations could harm the centrist vote. 

“The way that these young voters demand kinds of policies or the way that they talk about politics on social media, may alienate Democrats who otherwise might support a more centrist candidate,” he said. 

Nevertheless, UH Democrats plan to do everything they can to have O’Rourke in the Governor’s office next year. 

“We’ll block walk, we’ll volunteer, we’ll make phone calls, we’ll do everything we can,” Robinson said. “He’s on the ground fighting, and I think that’s the kind of leader that is the most effective when they have their own skin in the game.” 

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