Feb 10, 2022

During Rally in Austin, O’Rourke Denounces Abbott Over Jan. 6 and Electric Power Grid

Reporting Texas

Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke observes a moment of silence dedicated to lives lost during the state’s winter storm last year. The vigil was part of a campaign event in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 9, 2022. Jamie Roy/Reporting Texas

Likely Democratic nominee for governor Beto O’Rourke ripped Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s failure to denounce the Republican National Committee’s use of the phrase “legitimate political discourse” when referencing the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection during a rally in Austin on Feb. 9.

“Silence right now is complicity in the criminality that we’re seeing from those who attacked those police officers on 6th of January last year,” O’Rourke said. 

An acapella group sings, “Lean on Me” during the campaign event on Feb. 9, 2022. Jamie Roy/Reporting Texas

With early voting in the gubernatorial primary election set to start Feb. 14, O’Rourke is traveling around the state and hosting a series of rallies dubbed the Keeping the Lights On: A Statewide Drive for a Brighter Texas .

“We’re going everywhere because we want to make sure no one is counted out, no one is written off, no one is taken for granted,” he said.

The stop in Austin was held at the Texas AFL-CIO parking lot where a crowd of 200 people participated in a lighting vigil to honor those whose lives were lost during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.

O’Rourke hopes to improve upon his 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate, when he lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by a fairly narrow margin just over 2.5 percentage points.

O’Rourke campaign volunteer and Austinite Adam Zimmerman said that despite polls showing him trailing Abbott, O’Rourke’s message is resonating with voters.

“He’s trying to stick to issues that Texans care about,” Zimmerman said.

Beto O’Rourke addresses issues with Texas’ power grid during his speech on Feb. 9, 2022. Jamie Roy/Reporting Texas

One of those issues is improving the Texas power grid. The grid failed last year during Winter Storm Uri and ultimately 246 Texans died, according to a report from the Department of State Health Services.

Being an EMS responder during the storm showed her how local hospitals struggled to care for their patients because of the water and power outages, president of the Austin EMS Association Selena Xie said during the rally.

“(The storm) was really close to a humanitarian disaster, and I just don’t think our country recognizes that,” she said.

Austininte Lynn Tazser said she was forced into a public shelter during the snowstorm in 2021 and decided to attend the rally to hear what O’Rourke had to say about improving the grid.

“It’s hard to believe with all the oil money and tech money there was a power outage in Texas,” Tazser said.

Diane Selken, left, of Austin, Texas, listens to Beto O’Rourke address the lives lost by the winter storm in Texas last year. Jamie Roy/Reporting Texas

With the memory of what happened last year still fresh, the state bunkered down last week during freezing temperatures. Texas didn’t see the same disastrous results as in 2021, but it is still vulnerable O’Rourke said. He said Abbott’s failure to properly apologize to Texans for the failure of the power grid in 2021 is extremely disappointing.

“We need to change that person in that office because we cannot expect (Abbott) to do something different now given the opportunities he’s had,” O’Rourke said.

Holding signs with slogans such as “Beto-Biden Crisis is Killing Texans” and “Beto wants to take your guns!,” a group of about 30 protesters showed up at O’Rourke’s rally.

Protesters opposed to  Beto O’Rourke’s message arrive at his  campaign rally in Austin, Texas. Marina Garcia/Reporting Texas

One of those protesters, Jordan Clements, 21, said Abbott can’t be held responsible over what happened last year since he had no control over the power grid.

“(O’Rourke’s) policies are incompatible with Texas,” Clements said in regard to O’Rourke’s stand on stricter gun laws. “We’re willing to speak up (against him) and we’re here to listen.”

While O’Rourke’s spoke to the crowd, some protesters yelled, “Go home Francis,” using O’Rourke’s middle name.

In a potential gubernatorial matchup, Abbott leads O’Rourke 47% to 36% according to a Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler poll in January.  

Meanwhile, O’Rourke’s next stops on his rally tour will be in San Antonio and Laredo on Feb. 10, where is expected to continue his focus on the state’s power grid.

“At a time this state is so divided and polarized and you have a governor pitting against one another, bringing every part of the state together around the big things like fixing the grid … is the right message for the state at the moment,” O’Rourke said.