Republican Greg Abbott held on to the Texas governorship, maintaining the GOP’s control of the country’s second-largest state and shattering Democratic hopes that Texans’ desire for change could boost the party’s prospects.
Abbott is projected to win the race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a prominent former congressman who pledged to reverse the governor’s near-total abortion ban and push for gun reform legislation.
The incumbent governor pitched himself as an advocate for the state’s conservative core, staging disputes with Democrats through stunts like sending “migrant caravans” to Northeastern states. An ally of former President Donald Trump, Abbott also presented himself as responsible for economic growth in Texas.
O’Rourke, who had previously run for Senate in Texas, raised tens of millions of dollars for his campaign race. But Abbott, a long-time former Texas attorney general, also drew major donations, while casting O’Rourke’s fundraising success as a reflection of his dependence on liberals outside the state. O’Rourke trailed in the polls for most of the race.
Securing a third term means Abbott can continue to advance policies targeting women and sexual minorities, and to cast Texas as a bulwark against Democratic attempts at criminal justice and immigration reform. It also means he will continue to gain national headlines and influence within the Republican Party ahead of a possible future run for president.
Meanwhile, Democrats will need to analyze why their yearslong bid to rally Hispanic voters, suburbanites and Texans alarmed by the rightward shift of the GOP has yet to bear fruit. This may mean developing a new strategy since their current approach failed even with a candidate widely seen as Texas’ best-known Democrat.
O’Rourke’s loss leaves open the question of what the 50-year-old will do next. With his popularity and fundraising skills, he could attempt another run for senator or president. He could also leave politics altogether, as he has previously hinted he might.