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Beto O’Rourke for governor

Beto O’Rourke is a fourth-generation Texan, born and raised in El Paso where he has served as a small business owner, a city council representative and a member of Congress. He founded and currently leads Powered by People, a Texas-based organization that works to expand democracy and produce Democratic victories through voter registration and direct voter engagement. Powered by People has helped register over 250,000 unregistered Texans to vote since its inception in December 2019.

Beto is married to Amy O’Rourke and together they are raising Ulysses, Molly and Henry in El Paso’s historic Sunset Heights.

About Beto O’Rourke

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (born September 26, 1972) is an American politician who served as the U.S. representative for Texas’s 16th congressional district from 2013 to 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, O’Rourke was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, and is the Democratic nominee for the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election.

O’Rourke was born into a local political family in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of Woodberry Forest School and Columbia University. While studying at Columbia, he began a brief music career as bass guitarist in the post-hardcore band Foss. After his college graduation, he returned to El Paso and began a business career. In 2005, he was elected to the El Paso City Council, serving until 2011; he served as mayor pro tempore during his first year in office. O’Rourke was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 after defeating eight-term incumbent Democrat Silvestre Reyes in the primary.

After being re-elected to the House in 2014 and 2016, O’Rourke declined to seek another term in 2018. Instead, he sought the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz, running a competitive campaign that drew national attention. Despite losing the election to Cruz by a margin of 2.6%, O’Rourke set a record for most votes ever cast for a Democrat in a midterm election in Texas.

On March 14, 2019, O’Rourke announced his candidacy in the 2020 United States presidential election. He suspended his campaign on November 1, 2019, due to a lack of traction and financial issues. He later endorsed Joe Biden, following endorsements by Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.

O’Rourke is the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, challenging incumbent governor Greg Abbott. O’Rourke won the Democratic nomination for governor on March 1, 2022.

World-Class Schools

Public education is about the future of our kids and the future of our economy—because if we want the best jobs in America to be right here in Texas, we need the best schools in America to be right here in Texas.

But when I talk to teachers across the state, they tell me they lack the resources and flexibility they need to fully unlock a lifelong love of learning in the students in their classroom. Greg Abbott has underfunded Texas schools by $4,000 per student compared to the national average, and Texas’ hyper-focus on standardized testing has tied the hands of educators, forcing them to teach to a test instead of teaching to the children in front of them.

I will fully fund public schools.

Texas teachers are doing the most they can with the limited resources they have, but they’re burnt out, helping to explain why one-third leave the profession by their fifth year. Our teachers are underpaid by about $7,500 compared to those in other states, and educators who retired after 2004 haven’t received a single cost of living adjustment on their retirement benefits.

As governor, I will fully fund public schools and fully support teachers, students, and parents.

We will put more money into our kids’ classrooms and reject any effort to take your public tax dollars out of your schools. We will recruit and retain the best and brightest educators by raising teacher pay, strengthening health care and retirement benefits, and treating teachers with the respect they deserve. And we will finally end this state’s over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing so that we can focus on measures that better inform instruction, address student learning gaps, and provide appropriate feedback to educators.

High-Paying Jobs

Texas is the ninth largest economy in the world—we should see good jobs coming to every part of Texas. Yet over the past decade, Texas has lost 600,000 living wage jobs, while growth has been concentrated in the kinds of jobs that don’t pay enough for the average Texas family to get by. With 1 in 5 Texas children living in poverty, it’s clear that the Texas economy isn’t working for everyone.

Over the past decade, Texas has lost 600,000 living wage jobs.

Together, we can ensure that the best jobs in America are created right here in Texas. That means raising the minimum wage to ensure every Texan is paid the full value of their work, increasing access to paid and sick leave, making Texas a right-to-organize state, and ensuring Texas leads on the big, bold innovations that can move this state forward.

I will pursue an aggressive energy jobs plan that will ensure Texas remains the global energy leader for generations to come. We will expand on our leadership in oil and gas by creating over 1 million high-skill, high-wage unions jobs in geothermal energy, offshore wind, hydrogen, battery storage, and more in the years to come.

We will take Texas from having one of the worst health care systems in the country to having one of the best, including by expanding Medicaid to bring billions of dollars into the Texas economy and create nearly 300,000 jobs in the healthcare industry and beyond.

And we’ll ensure infrastructure development projects flow to every part of the state—to urban, suburban, and rural communities alike—to build out the roads, bridges, water systems, and broadband that will encourage economic development in our communities. We’ll create not just any infrastructure jobs, but family-supporting infrastructure jobs, with good pay, good benefits, and good job training opportunities.

Together, we can ensure the best jobs in America come right here to Texas.

To make sure every Texan willing to work hard and serve their community can access these types of high-paying jobs, we will dramatically expand access to apprenticeships, career and technical education programs, and other job training opportunities in Texas’ most in-demand industries. That’s the only way to ensure each of our families have the opportunity to move up and move forward.

Affordable Health Care

All Texans deserve access to affordable health care so that they’re well enough to go to school, pursue a career, and live to their full potential. But with 1 in 5 Texans uninsured, Texas leads the nation in the number of people who can’t afford to see a doctor or fill a prescription—and we rank dead last in the nation when it comes to mental health care access.

While expanding Medicaid is our best shot at turning things around, Greg Abbott has refused to take action, keeping $100 billion of our own federal tax dollars from coming back to Texas to insure more people.

But it’s more than that: This means that when an uninsured Texan goes to the emergency room, all of us foot the bill in the form of higher insurance premiums and higher taxes to our local hospital districts—which helps to explain why Texas has some of the highest property taxes and health care costs in the entire country.

The failure to expand Medicaid is driving up our property taxes and insurance premiums.

Since taking office, Governor Abbott has also slashed funding for programs designed to recruit and retain medical professionals by nearly half, which helps to explain why our hospitals are 20,000 nurses short, and why over half of Texas counties lack a medical specialist or mental health provider of any kind.

As governor, I will do the commonsense, fiscally-responsible thing and expand Medicaid to bring billions of your federal tax dollars back home to Texas to help more people see a doctor. Expanding Medicaid will create nearly 300,000 jobs in Texas, keep rural hospitals open, and reduce property taxes and health care costs across the board.

In addition to my Nursing Jobs Plan—which will create a state-sponsored scholarship and apprenticeship program to recruit 7,500 registered nurses every year until Texas’ nursing shortage is eliminated—I will also restore funding for programs designed to recruit and retain the best and brightest doctors and mental health providers to Texas.

We’ll take Texas from having the worst health care system in the country to having one of the best.

Small Business

As a former business owner in my hometown of El Paso, I met a payroll every month for 15 years and created dozens of high-skill, high-wage jobs that one might not expect to see in a border community. As governor, I will have the backs of all those Texans with a dream looking to create great jobs in their communities.

I will have the backs of all those Texans with a dream.

I’ll ensure Texas multiplies partnerships with private lenders and community banks to expand access to capital, credit, and training—especially in low-income and rural areas where it’s traditionally hard to come by.

And I’ll help small businesses bring down their costs by keeping Texas a No Income Tax state, lowering property taxes by finally ensuring large, wealthy corporations pay their fair share, and lowering monthly electricity bills by investing in energy efficiency programs that help businesses weatherize their facilities and install energy efficient appliances.

I’ll also set a strong example by directing state agencies to use Texas’ purchasing power to support small businesses when procuring goods and services, especially those that are newly created and those owned by women, people of color, veterans, and the disabled.

Together, we’ll ensure Texas is the number one state for innovators and hard workers to start and grow their small businesses.

Power Grid and Energy Bills

In the ninth largest economy in the world, we shouldn’t have to worry that the people in power can’t keep the power on for the people of Texas.

Yet the power grid failed last February, killing over 700 people, causing over $300 billion in economic damages, and leaving millions of our fellow Texans in the dark and cold for days. And in the months since, Texans across the state continue to lose power when the weather gets too hot or too cold for the grid to support.

I will keep the lights on and the power flowing in the state of Texas.

So why is it that Greg Abbott can’t keep the lights on in the energy capital of the world?

It’s because every chance he gets, Abbott chooses to prioritize the profits of the energy CEOs who have donated tens of millions of dollars to his campaign—even when he knows it will cost the lives of our fellow Texans.

During the grid failure last February, energy CEOs made $11 billion by price gouging Texans as families froze to death in their homes. Instead of making them return those illegal profits to Texans or even update their infrastructure to prevent future humanitarian disasters, Abbott let them off the hook. In return, those same companies showered Abbott in larger campaign checks than ever before.

And what does that mean for the rest of us? Just look at your next energy bill: You’ll notice that you’re paying The Abbott Tax—an average of $45 more on our electricity bills every single month for the coming decades in order to keep Abbott’s donors happy.

The corruption ends when I’m governor. We’re going to redesign the power grid to prioritize Texas families, not wealthy energy corporations. We’re going to fully weatherize the power grid to withstand extreme weather and connect Texas to the national grid so that we can draw down power when we need it most. We’re going to prevent energy corporations from price gouging Texans in the future and dramatically reduce Texans’ energy bills going forward.

Property Taxes

In the seven years that Abbott has been governor, property taxes have skyrocketed $20 BILLION. Why? It’s simple:

First, Abbott isn’t looking out for Texas families—he’s looking out for his wealthy corporate donors. Year after year, he allows corporations to manipulate the appraisal process and shift billions upon billions of dollars of their tax burden onto the rest of us. As governor, I will ensure wealthy corporations pay what they truly owe, dramatically reducing property taxes for families and small businesses.

Second, Abbott has consistently mismanaged the state budget and pushed the majority of Texas’ school finance burden onto local taxpayers. While the state government and local school districts used to split the cost of public education 50-50, the state now pays just 40 percent, driving up school property taxes year after year. When I’m governor, the state government will pay what it owes our families in school funding, meaning lower property taxes for all of us.

Third, by refusing to expand Medicaid, Abbott has kept $100 billion of YOUR federal tax dollars from coming back home to Texas to lower your property taxes. As a result, when an uninsured Texan goes to the emergency room, we are forced to foot the bill through the property taxes that we pay to our local hospital districts. When I’m governor, we will finally do the fiscally responsible, commonsense thing and expand Medicaid, reducing the property taxes that we pay to cover indigent care.

Fourth, Abbott has refused to legalize marijuana, meaning we’re still paying property taxes to lock up tens of thousands of Texans a year for the possession of a substance that is legal in much of the rest of the country. When we legalize marijuana, we’ll lower the property taxes that we pay to fund our county jails AND bring in billions of dollars in new state revenue that can be used to buy down school property taxes.

Property taxes are up $20 billion since Abbott took office.

Bottom line: We can provide true property tax relief, uphold Texas’ proud tradition of being a No Income Tax state, and hold the line on sales taxes if we just get smarter about managing the state budget, even the playing field between Texas families and wealthy corporations, and bring in new forms of state revenue by doing commonsense things like expanding Medicaid and legalizing marijuana.

Border and Immigration

As a fourth generation border resident who is raising my three children in El Paso, guaranteeing safety and security at our border is at the top of my priorities. Texas should be THE leader in building a safe, legal, orderly immigration system that meets the needs of our state and country. No state has more to gain or lose.

To get this right, we must lead with bipartisan solutions, not counterproductive political stunts. For decades, Republicans and Democrats alike have treated the border like a political football, opting for photo ops and bumper sticker campaign slogans instead of real reform. As a result, human smugglers and criminal networks are able to exploit and profit off of our dangerously outdated laws.

Case in point: Greg Abbott is using our tax dollars by the billions to take 10,000 members of the Texas National Guard away from their families, careers, and communities to serve as the backdrop for his photo ops at the border, even though they have zero authority to arrest or detain migrants. All the while, he has degraded their service, delayed their pay, and slashed their earned tuition benefits in order to afford their ongoing deployment. All he has done in his seven and a half years in office is pose tough at the border while doing nothing to make us any safer—the definition of a stunt instead of a solution.

When we focus on solutions instead of stunts, we can invest in border enforcement that actually works. That means more smart technology like sensors, surveillance towers, and drones that can detect crossings between ports of entry and help enforcement authorities carry out arrests. It also means additional processing capacity to allow us to more efficiently screen migrants for asylum eligibility, run criminal background checks, and quickly deport anyone who is here illegally or who poses a threat to our country.

We must lead with solutions, not stunts.

We can also deter illegal migration by guaranteeing legal pathways that better meet the needs of our families, communities, and economy. We can support businesses, reduce supply chain delays, and bring down inflation with a new guest worker program that provides a legal way for migrants to fill labor shortages in key Texas industries like agriculture, oil and gas, and manufacturing. And we can reform our family reunification system so that it no longer takes more than 20 years for U.S. citizens to legally bring family members over from other countries.

To do any of this, we must first listen to border communities — those who have borne the brunt of decades of inaction by both political parties, and who should no longer have to pay for their failures. As governor, I will ensure border residents are holding the pen when these reforms are written, and I will ensure they have a partner in the governor’s office.

That’s how we begin to finally establish a safe, legal, orderly immigration system for Texas and this country.

Reproductive Freedom

All Texans deserve the freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies, their own health care, and their own future. We deserve the freedom to decide if, when, and with whom to start a family.

But Greg Abbott believes that the government has the right to upend these freedoms, control women’s bodies, and strip women of their personal autonomy. At the same time that he starves the Texas foster care system, maternal health care, and social safety net programs, he has led the most extreme attack on reproductive health care in the entire nation. It couldn’t be more clear that this isn’t about life; it’s about controlling women.

I will trust Texas women to make their own health care decisions.

Texas has already lost half of its women’s health clinics in the past decade, making it harder and harder to receive a cervical cancer screening or family planning help of any kind. As a result, Texas leads the nation in repeat teen pregnancies and our maternal mortality rate is worse than that of Tajikistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. And now, Abbott’s near-total ban on abortion will only make it harder for women to receive the care they need.

This ends when I’m governor. I will trust Texas women to make their own health care decisions.

In addition to restoring women’s freedom to choose, we will fully fund family planning services and launch an aggressive initiative to combat this state’s maternal mortality crisis, including by expanding Medicaid eligibility to help more women see a doctor and by increasing Medicaid coverage for pregnant women to at least one year postpartum.

LGBTQ+ Rights

Texas is big enough for all of us—no matter who we are or who we love.

But instead of delivering for all of us, Greg Abbott uses his power to demonize us, divide us, and pit us against each other for his own political benefit.

He has spent his entire career attacking LGBTQ+ Texans, fighting marriage equality, and criminalizing the loving parents of transgender children for supporting their kids. Under his watch, Texas still allows employers, landlords, and others to discriminate against someone for no other reason than their sexuality or gender identity.

That changes when we win.

Texas is big enough for all of us.

We’ll use our power to pass this state’s first comprehensive nondiscrimination law, protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all, and make sure LGBTQ+ Texans know that they’re not only welcome here, but that they belong here.

That’s how we ensure that every person in this state can finally live freely as themselves and free from discrimination.

Rural Investment

I want every part of Texas to share in this state’s wealth.

But right now, when great jobs come to Texas, they’re not coming to rural communities. That’s not because they’re not full of hardworking people; it’s because state leaders have failed to partner with rural communities to invest in education, health care, and broadband, making it harder and harder to recruit and retain talent and encourage economic investment.

Just a couple of examples: Because Greg Abbott has failed to expand Medicaid, more rural hospitals have closed in Texas than in any other state. And because he vetoed rural broadband support legislation last year, rural Texans could soon be paying anywhere between $20-$100 more on their phone and internet bills.

As governor, I will be a partner for rural communities.

I want every part of Texas to share in this state’s wealth.

I will expand Medicaid to help keep rural hospitals open and ensure no Texan has to drive hundreds of miles just to see a doctor. I will create incentive allotment programs for rural teachers and physicians to ensure rural communities can recruit and retain the very best talent. And I will expand access to affordable broadband to ensure that students can do homework online, businesses can succeed, and families can connect with each other.

Freedom to Vote

Every citizen in this state should be able to vote. Generations of Texans have fought and died to defend that right and protect our democracy.

Yet in a cynical ploy to maintain power and shield himself from the will of the people, Greg Abbott has made Texas the hardest state in which to register to vote and cast a ballot.

Under his leadership, Texas has closed more polling places than any other state. Our onerous voter ID laws are particularly difficult for young, elderly, and low-income Texans to meet. We’re one of just a handful of states that does not offer online voter registration. And new, confusing mail-in ballot laws have complicated the process for elderly and disabled Texans—many of whom have relied on that form of voting for decades.

As governor, I will ensure every eligible voter can access the ballot box and have a say in the future of our state.

We will pass online and same-day voter registration, expand eligible forms of voter ID, reduce obstacles to voting by mail, expand access to polling sites, and establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions to ensure that Texas voters have the power to pick their leaders, not the other way around.

Energy and Environment

As governor, I will work tirelessly to ensure Texas remains the global energy leader for generations to come. I’ll ensure that we fix our failing power grid, expand the energy jobs we create in Texas, bring down Texans’ energy bills, and help lead the fight against climate change.

I will add to our hundreds of thousands of oil and gas jobs by pursuing the Texas labor movement’s aggressive clean energy jobs plan, which aims to create 1.1 million high-paying jobs over the next 25 years by investing in geothermal power generation, hydrogen-fueled energy, offshore wind, solar generation, energy efficiency, and more.

I will work tirelessly to ensure Texas remains the global energy leader.

And as energy consumers around the world increasingly demand cleaner energy, it’s becoming clear that we will soon lose our leadership in oil and gas if we don’t work seriously to remove emissions from the industry and better protect our air, water, and public lands. While most companies want to do the right thing, they’re put at a competitive disadvantage when Greg Abbott allows his wealthiest corporate donors to pollute without consequence. When I’m governor, I will enforce our pollution laws and create jobs in emission reduction strategies like carbon capture and storage.

Pursuing these solutions now promises to bring billions of dollars into the Texas economy—but if we don’t act soon, other states and countries will pass us by.

Gun Safety

I’m proud of Texas’ long tradition of responsible gun ownership. Like millions of Texans, my family taught me how to safely and responsibly use firearms—and I passed those teachings onto my own children.

To uphold that tradition, we must change how easy it is for people to use firearms irresponsibly in this state. Over 4,000 Texans are killed by gun violence every year. Women in Texas are 24 percent more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other states. And four of the worst mass shootings in American history have taken place right here in Texas in just the past decade.

Instead of working with Texans to address these challenges, Governor Abbott ignored the advice of law enforcement when he signed the dangerous permitless carry law that makes it easy for criminals to carry a loaded gun in public without any background check, training, or permit.

When I’m governor, we will repeal permitless carry.

And while it might not be the easy or politically safe thing to say, I don’t believe any civilian should own an AR-15 or AK-47. When a gunman drove to a Walmart in my hometown of El Paso and managed to kill nearly two dozen of my neighbors with an AK-47 in under three minutes, it made it all too clear to me that it is far too easy for Texans to get their hands on weapons of war that are designed specifically to kill people in masses in as little time as possible.

Preventing tragedies like these will require making progress on commonsense solutions that most Texans agree on. For instance:

  1. Closing the private sale background check loophole may have prevented the 2019 Midland-Odessa shooting;
  2. An effective red flag law system may have prevented the 2019 El Paso shooting;
  3. Effective safe storage and child access prevention laws may have prevented the 2018 Santa Fe shooting;
  4. And stronger domestic violence reporting laws may have prevented the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting.

As Texans, we can move forward on these reforms. We can protect the Second Amendment while also protecting our friends, family members, and neighbors from gun violence. Our lives depend on it.

Marijuana Legalization

We shouldn’t be locking Texans up for a substance that is legal in much of the rest of the country.

Marijuana arrests have created vast racial disparities in our criminal justice system, generated an unnecessary burden on Texas taxpayers, and diverted law enforcement officers’ time and attention away from violent crime.

When I’m governor, we will legalize marijuana and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession—and we’ll use the nearly $1 billion in new state revenue and reduced criminal justice costs to invest in public schools and reduce property taxes.

It’s the right thing to do.

Disability Rights

Texans with disabilities of all ages deserve equal opportunity to live and age in place and to achieve economic self-sufficiency in the community.

Yet under Greg Abbott’s leadership, Texas ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to access to services for people with disabilities, employers are allowed to pay disabled Texans subminimum wages, our public education system continues to make headlines for discriminating against students with special needs, and new, discriminatory voting laws have made it even harder for Texans with disabilities to participate in our elections.

Every Texan deserves to live and age in place and thrive in their community.

As governor, I will work in partnership with the disability community to ensure every Texan can fully thrive in their schools, in their employment, in their homes, and in all aspects of community life:

  1. Health Care: We will expand Medicaid, improve funding for Medicaid waiver programs to reduce the unacceptably long waitlists for home and community based services, and address Texas’ dire shortage of community attendants by improving their pay and benefits.

  2. Education: We will fully fund special education, guarantee inclusive learning environments in public schools, and ensure every child receives the individualized instruction they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  3. Employment: To guarantee access to fair, integrated employment for every Texan, we will close the loopholes that allow employers to pay disabled Texans subminimum wages and expand individualized job training opportunities provided through home and community based services.

  4. Housing and Transportation: We will expand accessible, affordable, and integrated housing and transportation options—including in rural communities—and gather input from the disability community to identify and remedy shortcomings in the implementation of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  5. Criminal Justice: We will expand funding for community-based mental health systems to ensure that Texans with psychiatric, intellectual, and developmental disabilities receive the care they need in the community—not through the criminal justice system.

  6. Voting Rights: We will guarantee accessible voting methods so that every eligible Texan can participate in our democracy, including by reducing barriers to mail-in voting, repealing voting restrictions designed to intimidate personal attendants, restoring access to drive-through voting, and more.

Public Safety and Criminal Justice

As governor, my number one job will be to keep the people of Texas safe.

I agree with police chiefs from across the state, who tell me Texas will be safest and most secure when we start funding programs like mental health care, addiction treatment, housing support, and youth services that prevent crime before it happens and give families the tools to lead good lives and give back to our communities.

Beyond being inhumane, criminalizing poverty and mental illness jeopardizes public safety, keeping law enforcement from focusing on violent crime. That’s why I support equipping more social workers and diversion courts to handle these challenges so that police can focus their time and resources on arresting and prosecuting violent criminals.

Since Abbott took office, violent crime has risen faster in Texas than the national average, and fewer violent crimes are ending in arrest. In fact, the arrest rate for murder has fallen by 25 percent while the arrest rate for rape has fallen by nearly half. To fix this, I will strengthen forensic services, end Texas’ rape kit backlog, and ensure law enforcement agencies have everything they need to bring justice to victims.

As governor, my number one job will be to keep the people of Texas safe.

And finally, it’s critical that we equip people leaving jail and prison with the tools they need to successfully reenter our communities. That means incentivizing employers to hire people working to get back on their feet, and investing in treatment, education, and job training that will enable people to live crime-free lives after release.

That’s how we’ll strengthen the safety of our families, our communities, and our state.

Serving Our Veterans

My top priority while serving in Congress was delivering for Texas veterans. Serving on both the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, I worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to lift up the heroes who have put their lives on the line for our country.

My VA health care reform plan added two new VA clinics in my hometown of El Paso, nearly doubled the number of mental health providers at the local VA, and ultimately brought wait times down from an average of 71 days to an average of 5 days.

In addition, I authored and passed legislation that expanded access to VA mental health care to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, granted every separating service member access to a mental health screening, improved and customized transition assistance for service members leaving the military—and more.

Texas can and must do more to serve our veterans.

Texas can and must do more to serve our veterans. As governor, I will prioritize efforts to end veteran homelessness in Texas by the end of my first year in office, cut property taxes for disabled and low-income veterans, dramatically expand the state’s veterans health care case management system, strengthen services for veterans suffering from toxic exposure, expand access to medical marijuana and other alternatives to harmful opioids, and strengthen access to the education and employment benefits that our veterans have earned.