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Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Dallas

Beto O'Rourke speaking into a microphone with reporters behind him.
Keren Carrión
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke hosts a rally at Fair Park in Dallas on Nov. 21, 2021.

Hundreds attended a Sunday afternoon rally at Fair Park in support of Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy for Texas governor.

Former Democratic congressman and El Paso-native Beto O’Rourke is hosting rallies all over Texas to kick off his run for governor. On Sunday, roughly 500 North Texans attended a campaign kickoff event in Dallas’ Fair Park.

O’Rourke, who mounted a close-yet-unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Ted Cruz in 2018, announced last week he would challenge incumbent Republican Greg Abbott to be governor of Texas.

Local Dallas activist and leader Reverend Michael W. Waters introduced O’Rourke on Sunday, where he bashed Abbott and Cruz, while highlighting O’Rourke’s community efforts during the February storm that left millions of Texans cold and without power.

“I saw with my own eyes that Beto O'Rourke was making sure that water was reaching those people in need of a drink,” Waters recalled . “I remember Beto O'Rourke signing up people to vote himself and going all across this state to ensure that we can cast a vote.”

Beto O'Rourke visits Dallas during gubernatorial race for Texas governor

Many rally-goers who spoke with KERA expressed key issues they hoped O’Rourke will tackle, including changes to the power grid and reproductive rights.

Rafael Bosque moved to Plano from San Juan, Puerto Rico five years ago. He said the Bosque family worked and canvassed for O’Rourke since they moved to Texas.

“We see hope in him,” Bosque said. “We hope for him to win, to change the power grid, to change the situation we have right now with women’s rights.”

O’Rourke said his platform is not geared towards any particular party, but about the well-being of all Texans. His talking points Sunday included women’s reproductive rights, fair access to the vote, healthcare for all, and weatherizing the Texas power grid.

“We are coming to reclaim this state,” O’Rourke said.

Anna Villano, a 24-year-old nurse in Dallas, said she’s passionate about seeing everyone have access to healthcare and insurance. She told KERA she feels O’Rourke hears her concerns.

“Working in healthcare, I see a lot of injustices and it’s not fair because I can provide care but not for everybody,” she said. “I see it every single day.”

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke hosts a rally at Fair Park in Dallas after announcing his campaign, on Nov. 21, 2021.
Keren Carrión / KERA News
People wait in line for a photo with gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke during his campaign kickoff at Fair Park in Dallas on Saturday.

O’Rourke highlighted current policies signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott that he’s hoping to change, including permit-less carry of firearms, strict restrictions for voters and SB 8, the state’s controversial law banning abortions as early as six weeks.

He also told Sunday’s crowd that he’s working to expand Medicaid, lower property taxes and utility bills, pay living wages to educators and legalize marijuana in the state of Texas.

However, O’Rourke said none of this is possible unless he and his supporters are knocking on doors and spreading the message in their own communities.

“You are this campaign. It will not be the candidate,” O’Rourke said. “It will be each and every single one of us choosing to come together.”

After the event, around 300 attendees stood in line for two hours on a windy Dallas afternoon to get a photo with the gubernatorial candidate.

In addition to O’Rourke’s unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2018 against Ted Cruz, he was also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Given his poor track record, critics say his race for governor won’t be any different.

In recent decades, Texas has been controlled by Republicans, which will prove a challenge for O’Rourke — but he said he’s prepared to work with other state Republicans to reach common ground.

On Monday, O’Rourke will travel to Abilene and De Leon in West Texas on the last leg of his campaign kickoff.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke hosts a rally at Fair Park in Dallas after announcing his campaign, on Nov. 21, 2021.
Keren Carrión
Alonzo Reese, 73, campaigned for Beto O'Rourke last year, and is excited to continue volunteering for his campaign. "We need a new leader," he said. Reese poses for a photo with O'Rourke at Saturday's rally in Dallas.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Keren Carrión is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Keren at You can follow Keren on Twitter @kerencarrion8.

Keren I. Carrión is a visual journalist for KERA in Dallas as well as The Texas Newsroom, a journalism collaboration among the public radio stations of Texas and NPR. She is currently a Report for America corps member.