Making his second campaign stop in Amarillo since announcing his gubernatorial campaign, Beto O’Rourke made his official first stop as the Democratic nominee Saturday night in a bid to unseat incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. Standing on the steps of the Potter County Courthouse in front of about 300 supporters, O’Rourke talked about his platform that focused on creating and bringing more high-quality jobs, investing more in education and affordable healthcare for all.
Introducing O’Rourke to the cheering crowd was Melodie Graves, who is currently in a runoff for the District 4 seat for County Commissioner. Graves gave a passionate welcome to O’Rourke as the right candidate for Texas in the face of the current governor’s culture wars.
Graves said that she was impressed by O’Rourke’s last visit to Amarillo when he said that we are not Democrats nor Republicans, but humans.
“I think Beto gets us back to our American values, like loving our neighbors such as being there and caring for them,” Graves said. “I believe that our current governor, much like many who have been in office a long time, sometimes lose touch with the front line and what is really going on. I think Beto is here amongst the people and with the people, understanding the struggles they are facing.”
O’Rourke continually emphasized creating more high-paying jobs, high value for Texans, throughout his remarks.
“I want to make sure that the absolute best jobs created in the U.S are found right here in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke led with. “We need to make sure the jobs we are creating are good jobs.”
He said that nobody should have to work multiple jobs to have to take care of their families.
Shifting the conversation to education, O’Rourke said that teachers should have better resources and compensation for the critical job that they provide to children in the community. He applauded the work of educators during the recent trying times of the pandemic in their effort to provide education, and he pledged to raise teacher pay.
“I want to make sure that we, the people of Texas, have the back of our teachers,” O’Rourke said. “How can we expect the next generation of teachers to come into the profession if we do not treat teachers with the respect they are owed? When I am governor, we are making public education job number one.”
Citing an expansion of Medicaid as a priority for his campaign, O’Rourke pledged to make it happen if he becomes governor. He talked about the need for better mental health care for the state and said that too much of its mental care is its prisons and correctional facilities.
“We are the least insured state in the U.S.; far too many are dying of diabetes and curable cancers, even the flu, in this state right now,” O’Rourke stated.
O’Rourke blasted Abbott for his current agenda that he sees as not taking care of the people and prioritizing wasteful high-cost endeavors such as misusing the National Guard and diverting Texas taxpayer money to projects such as adding to a border wall. The failure of the power grid under Abbott was a criticism leveled based on his misguided priorities.
“We need to find that common ground that we can all come together on, focus on the things that can bring us together rather than what divides us,” O’Rourke said. “Everyone can get behind great jobs.”
O’Rourke answered multiple questions from the crowd relating to sensible gun ownership, understaffed facilities due to Abbott diverting funds to other endeavors and once again, clarifying his stance on gun rights.
“I believe in the Second Amendment; I know as Texans we can defend it while still doing a better job of protecting our fellow Texans, like universal background checks and safe storage laws,” O’Rourke said.
A great majority of what O’Rourke had to say resonated strongly with those who showed up to support him.
“He makes me believe that democracy can work,” Caitlyn Downs said of his appearance. “I admire that he puts people first and is willing to listen to people that may not agree with him.”
Payton Brookshire, a college student, said that his stance on supporting women’s reproductive rights was vital to her.
“I feel like Beto is a candidate that will actually stand up for people,” Brookshire said. “The fact that he showed up for this community is more than the current governor has shown.”
A small crowd of about 10 people opposed O’Rourke’s appearance with signs in tow, including ones attacking his use of his childhood nickname.
Danial Venters, a 37-year-old first-time voter, was among the protesters against the O’Rourke campaign due to his gun stance. He said he is supportive of background checks but feels that the candidate takes it too far.
“I do not appreciate his taking of my constitutional rights; that is stepping on my Second Amendment rights,” Venters said.
O’Rourke met with the press following the rally and spoke of the importance of showing up and the keys to getting his views out to the people of Amarillo.
“I love the things we talked about tonight,” O’Rourke said.
“You’ve got to show up. At each stop, we meet people that never would have known what I stood for or what I wanted to do for them as governor. And so many come up to me after the meetings and say that ‘I did not know what you were about. I am going to vote for you.’ I am learning a lot about how we can unite, about things that can come together. I love the energy brought tonight by those who came out,” he said.
When asked about how to get a compelling message out to the public and what he wanted his message to be, O’Rourke laid out his three priorities once again.
“Jobs, great schools, and the ability to see a doctor; those are the three things that I repeatedly hear when I talk to people,” O’Rourke said. “These things will bring us together. They are aspirational and positive and perfectly contrast the current governor’s priorities.”
O’Rourke will continue with his next tour stops Sunday in Lubbock and then onto San Angelo.