Beto O'Rourke kicks off gubernatorial bid in Houston that could be the most expensive race ever

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Beto O'Rourke kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in Houston, not with a rally, but a stop in Houstonians' living rooms.

BETO STARTS HIS CAMPAIGN FOCUSING ON THE WINTER STORM

O'Rourke started his gubernatorial campaign in Houston without a massive crowd, signs, or speech. The democrat visited Kashmere Gardens in northeast Houston and talked to victims from this year's winter storm.

"They're looking for something better," O'Rourke explained. "They're looking to be able to stay in their homes without worrying whether the lights will turn on, or the heat will turn on, or they'll have another problem with their pipes."

You might remember, in February, the storm left millions of Texans in the dark, without heat, and killing dozens. It's an issue Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said he isn't surprised to see O'Rourke focus on.

"Beto is going to try and make this election into a referendum on Greg Abbott and his policy failures in the area of the electric grid, education, and infrastructure," Jones explained.

Governor Greg Abbott is targeting O'Rourke by focusing on his failed presidential campaign, and tying him to President Joe Biden. Abbott's campaign team released a statement after O'Rourke announced his candidacy, announcing he is running for office yet again: "From Beto O'Rourke's reckless calls to defund the police to his dangerous support of the Biden Administration's pro-open border policies, which have resulted in thousands of fentanyl deaths, Beto O'Rourke has demonstrated he has more in common with President Biden than he does with Texans. Governor Abbott proudly supports the men and women of law enforcement, has deployed Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel and resources to secure the border, and has created a business climate that has made Texas the economic engine of America. The last thing Texans need is President Biden's radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O'Rourke. The contrast for the direction of Texas couldn't be clearer."

THE GOVERNOR'S RACE COULD TOP $100 MILLION IN SPENDING

O'Rourke entered the governor's race this week, but he's not wasting time raising money. So far, he's received more than $2 million. It's well below Abbott, though, who has $55 million. Jones said this could be an expensive race.

"When the dust clears in this race, they'll probably be spending over $100 million if it remains competitive in the fall," Jones explained.

EXPERTS BELIEVE O'ROURKE HAS AN UPHILL CLIMB

Recent polling shows O'Rourke and Abbott in a close race. Jones doesn't believe it's that close.

"He starts off at a real disadvantage to Governor Abbott," Jones said. "First, Beto really hurt himself in the 2020 presidential race when he veered to the left when he attempted to capture the democratic nomination."

Jones said Beto focused on guns, the border and law enforcement. Those are issues that appealed to democrats across the country, but may hurt him in Texas. He narrowly lost to Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate in 2018, but Jones said the 2020 presidential campaign may impact Beto's 2022 chances.

"Beto 2.0, that's the presidential candidate, killed off Beto 1.0," Jones explained.

O'ROURKE MAY HELP OTHER DEMOCRATS ACROSS TEXAS

O'Rourke may face a tough challenge, but Jones says his name brings excitement to the democrats, who haven't held the governor's seat in 26 years. O'Rourke served in Congress and ran for U.S. Senate and president.

"Even though he's likely to lose, by running he might help democrats win in a few of the competitive Texas House seats, maybe a U.S. House seat and some county races," Jones explained.

A race starting in Houstonian's livings rooms that could set the stage for one of the state's most expensive gubernatorial races ever.

For more political news, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.