O’Rourke clinches Democratic nomination for Texas governor
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) easily captured the Democratic nomination for Texas governor on Tuesday, setting him up for his first statewide general election bid in the Lone Star State since his 2018 loss to Sen. Ted Cruz (R).
O’Rourke faced a handful of fellow Democrats in the Tuesday primary, though there was little doubt about his chances of clinching the nomination. He has been the heavy favorite in the primary since announcing his candidacy in November, bolstered by his near-universal name recognition and fundraising prowess.
The Associated Press called the race about an hour after polls closed.
O’Rourke will likely face Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a stalwart conservative who is facing a crowded field of Republican primary challengers, but is widely expected to lock down the GOP nomination.
O’Rourke, who served three terms in the House, shot to stardom within the Democratic Party during his 2018 campaign against Cruz. While he ultimately lost that race, he parlayed his popularity into a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He eventually suspended his campaign in November 2019 before the first primaries and caucuses.
While O’Rourke commands a loyal following among Democrats, both in his home state and nationally, he is also facing an uphill battle in his bid to oust Abbott in November.
For one, Democrats nationally are facing a difficult political environment this year, given their current control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. At the same time, Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the governor’s mansion since former Gov. Ann Richards won the office in 1990.
And while O’Rourke came within 3 percentage points of defeating Cruz in 2018, that was also in a year that proved much more favorable to Democrats across the board.
This year, early polling shows him facing a greater challenger. A survey released last week by The Hill and Emerson College showed Abbott leading O’Rourke in a hypothetical general election matchup 52 percent to 45 percent.
Similarly, another recent poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found Abbot with a 7-point lead over O’Rourke. Still, that survey showed an improvement for the Texas Democratic hopeful, who trailed Abbott by 11 points in an earlier poll.
Abbott also has a massive financial advantage over O’Rourke. Campaign finance reports filed at the end of January showed the Republican incumbent with more than $62 million the bank. O’Rourke, by comparison, reported having $6 million on hand.