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Gov. Abbott Re-Elected in Texas, Beating O’Rourke in Race Centering on Guns, Uvalde

Texans favored the GOP incumbent despite a tumultuous last four years, which included a deadly power blackout and a mass elementary school shooting

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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Greg Abbott notched a decisive victory Tuesday night to earn a third term as Texas governor. 

The win secures the GOP trifecta in Austin that, over the last several years, has fought COVID-19 restrictions, enacted classroom censorship policies and blocked gun safety measures after the elementary school mass shooting in Uvalde.

The Associated Press called the race for Abbott at 11 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday.

“Tonight, Texans sent a very resounding message,” Abbott said in a victory speech from the southern border city of McAllen.

Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke sought to cast the contest as a referendum on the Republican incumbent’s last four years in office, which included a statewide power grid failure that killed hundreds, new restrictions on abortion and controversy over school safety after the killing of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. 

The result confirmed Abbott’s strong support within the growing and rapidly diversifying state of 29 million people, but came as Democrats nationwide fought off what was widely predicted to be a red wave, outperforming pre-election polling.

Following the May 24 tragedy in Uvalde, which was carried out by an 18-year-old gunman who bought two AR-15-style rifles immediately after turning the legal purchasing age, Abbott made no moves to reform gun laws. The inaction was widely criticized by the victims’ family members.

Meanwhile, O’Rourke pressed the issue, arguing that the mass shooting was preventable. That produced a memorable moment at an August  town hall event in Mineral Wells, when an Abbott supporter laughed while the Democrat described the damage done by an AR-15.

“It may be funny to you, motherfucker, but it’s not funny to me,” O’Rourke said.

Still, Abbott carried the mostly Hispanic Uvalde County by a 22-point margin, a slight increase beyond former President Donald Trump’s advantage there in 2020.

Capitalizing on anxieties over crime and inflation, the incumbent won majorities in nearly every county except those on the border and those representing the urban centers of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. More than 4 in 10 Texans named the economy as their chief concern, according to an Associated Press survey of nearly 3,400 voters.

Facing his third defeat in four years, this time after breaking state fundraising records and outraising his opponent, O’Rourke did not specify his future plans. The high-profile candidate has become a fixture in Texas Democratic politics since his surprisingly close race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

“I don’t know what my role or yours will be going forward, but I’m in this fight for life,” he said.

With over 95% of the ballots accounted for, Abbott received 54.8% of the vote and O’Rourke received 43.8%. 

A Democrat has not been elected to state office in the Lone Star State for nearly three decades.

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