Beto O’Rourke at Club Westerner

Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks to the room during his Drive for Texas tour of the state on Thursday evening at Club Westerner in Victoria.

Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic nominee in the Texas gubernatorial race, was in Victoria Thursday night for a campaign stop. If you didn't make it to the town hall event, here are some key takeaways from the event. 

O'Rourke wants gun control, but doesn't want to alienate people

When he ran for president in 2019, O'Rourke was aggressive in his stance on gun control — in one Democratic debate, he told the crowd "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47." 

Now, he's slightly more subdued, arguing for universal background checks and red flag laws while calling back to the horrors of mass shootings in Texas like those in Uvalde and El Paso, but still emphasizing the importance and legitimacy of the Second Amendment and saying he understands people's concerns about gun control. 

O'Rourke is pushing public education 

Multiple times Thursday night, O'Rourke declared the need to pay Texas teachers more, saying he would try to raise their pay to the national average by appropriating more state money to districts. 

He also said he would stop STAAR testing and replace it with a less punitive assessment, as well as appoint a classroom teacher as the Texas Education Agency's commissioner. 

A Democratic focus on abortion

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Texas government's total ban on abortion created a focus on the issue during the rally, with one audience member choking up as they asked O'Rourke how he would protect abortion rights. 

O'Rourke not only said he would push to bring abortion rights back to Texas, but argued closing women’s health clinics has health effects beyond terminating a pregnancy.

“Not only have we made it impossible for women to get an abortion, you are also closing down the one place that many people can go to get a cervical cancer screening,” he said.

O'Rourke thinks he can win

While a Democratic governor in Texas might seem unlikely, O'Rourke's campaign is making the case to voters that they have a real shot at winning on Nov. 8. 

He pointed to a narrowing gap in the race's polls since the campaign started and argued that his campaign's focus on issues. which he sees as in Texans' "common interest." would push him towards victory. 

"We are going to win this election," he said. 

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Ian Grenier covers K-12 and higher education for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach him at igrenier@vicad.com

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