“It’s déjà vu all over again,” in the words of the great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra. Texas voters rejected Democrat Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s bid for higher office for the third time. This time Texans re-elected Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who handily brushed off a challenge from the perennial office seeker. Texans roundly rejected O’Rourke in an election that national gun control groups had their eyes set on, believing the third time would be the charm.
Gun control was a major plank of O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign, even though he gave voters whiplash on his changing position on guns. Once the dust settled on election night, Gov. Abbott was victorious by a margin of nearly 1 million votes, 52 percent to 43 percent.
Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke in 2018 failed as a U.S. Senate candidate losing to Sen. Ted Cruz. In 2019 he failed to garner the Democrat presidential nomination before the 2020 election. Despite going 0 for 3, O’Rourke left the door open for yet another gun control run for office after his latest failure. “I don’t know what my role or yours will be going forward, but I’m in this fight for life,” he told supporters.
Gun Control Pretzel
O’Rourke has always been the darling of national gun control groups and has never met a gun control policy he didn’t love. His cause celebre was cemented by his “Hell yes – we’re taking your AR-15, your AK-47!” declaration from the debate stage during the Democratic presidential primary. His campaign flamed out, but in announcing his gubernatorial challenge to Gov. Abbott he told Texas media he’d had a change of heart.
“I’m not interested in taking anything from anyone. What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment,” O’Rourke said. It was a clear attempt to play politics to make for a more competitive campaign but went over like a lead balloon with Texas voters.
That comment angered O’Rourke’s key gun control constituency and his tone changed again as he voiced support for several gun control measures, including criticizing Gov. Abbott for signing Constitutional Carry into law after it passed the Texas state legislature. He also made sure to score cheap political points by interrupting a press conference in the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting at the hands of a deranged murderer.
The mayor of Uvalde called O’Rourke a “sick son of a b*tch” for the stunt. While national gun control groups continued to pour money into Texas, similar to their failed tactics in Florida, the Texas governor race wasn’t ever that close.
Read the Room
O’Rourke’s continued thirst for higher political office is so great he’s blinded from the most important aspect of running for office – the voters. Since 2020, Texans have submitted more than 4.4 million FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verifications to purchase a firearm, according to NSSF data.
That also means there are more than 1 million first-time gun buyers in the Lone Star state during the same time as national firearm sales have reached historic levels. That includes among women (40 percent of purchases) and minorities such as Hispanics, African American and Asian Americans. Texas voters simply don’t buy the gun control Beto is selling.
A quick analysis of O’Rourke’s gubernatorial election returns highlights his failures to convince Texas voters he’s authentic and has their interests at heart. According to Texas vote data, O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign fared nearly 5 percent worse statewide than his 2018 senate run. He only improved his vote share in two Texas counties, one by less than 2 percent and the other by one-tenth of a percent. That’s with all the in migration to Texas from other blue states like California that has happened recently.
O’Rourke’s vote share declined by 10 percent or more in 18 counties compared to 2018, including in seven blue counties he previously won like El Paso, Brooks, Duval and Starr County where he banked 18 percent lower support than he did just four years ago.
Crime and the ability of Americans to protect themselves and their families was a resounding concern heading into the midterm elections. In Texas, voters support their Second Amendment rights and demand their elected officials do so as well.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s support for the rights of law-abiding Texans is unquestionable. As Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke found out for the third time in less than five years, they won’t stand for anything less.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.