Texas Democrats want to know Beto O'Rourke's next steps after latest losing effort

Tom Abrahams Image
Monday, November 14, 2022
After Beto O'Rourke failed to win 3 different elections in Texas, Democrats want to know his next steps
While O'Rourke drew large crowds in rallies all over the state, he lost his gubernatorial bid.

It's been a week since Election Day and a sweeping win for Republicans in Texas. Atop of the ticket, Greg Abbott won a third term as governor, defeating challenger, Beto O'Rourke, by double digits. So what is next for O'Rourke, who has now failed to win election bids in 2018, 2020, and now 2022? The El Paso Democrat said on election night that he is not sure what his next step will be. On Monday, his campaign reflected on what they did accomplish in 2022 and how they fell short.

While O'Rourke drew large crowds in rallies all over the state, raised record amounts of money, and earned the votes of more than 3 million Texans, he lost his gubernatorial bid handily after losing a bid for the US Senate in 2018, and cutting short a run for the White House two years ago.

"It's hard to see how another elective office might be available to him, but he remains a big star in the Democratic Party," ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said. "He's got huge name recognition, ability to raise money, and the ability to draw a crowd."

In the wake of the loss, which saw O'Rourke underperform Joe Biden's vote tallies in 2020, his team met virtually on the record with reporters Monday. They talked about how his efforts across the state did help other candidates, namely Democrats in Harris County, and the groundwork they laid for future Democratic candidates.

"It was really important for Beto to do everything we could to win but also to do it in a way that would infrastructure for the future," Deputy Campaign Manager Jason Lee told reporters on a virtual press conference, "that we would hand off assets and resources to future Democratic campaigns to make it more likely for us to win in the future."

While he may or may not seek another elected office in the near future, Southern Methodist University political science professor, Cal Jillson, agrees he still could shape races in Texas in the coming election cycles from outside the arena.

"One thing he might do because he is very popular among democrats and a great fundraiser, is work on institution building for the Democratic Party in Texas," Jillson said.

There is some thought that even if O'Rourke doesn't run again, the apparatus he help build in Texas may help Democrats compete on a more even footing with Republicans who already have that infrastructure in a state that is very clearly red.

Republicans swept those statewide races and they did pick up a congressional seat in McAllen. But Democrats say for the amount of money Republicans spent, they feel good about their future heading into the next election cycle even if nationally, Texas may not be in play on an electoral map.

"It may be that Texas got really close to becoming a battleground state and is now trending a little bit more toward the red side," Klein told ABC13. "Certainly wouldn't put it as a presidential battleground in the next cycle, but it's hard for me to believe that Democrats are going to dump a lot of money into what they're almost certainly going to view as a losing cause."

While O'Rourke injected a lot of money into Texas and helped local Democrats win races, the party may or may not be any better off than it was in 2020.

"Democrats, I think frustratingly for the party, are in about the same position they were a couple of years ago," James Henson, the director of The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas-Austin, said. "And that is being able to see the potential for the state to become increasingly competitive in a way that gives them something of a shot but seeing that pace of that increased competitiveness is very slow."

But Texas Democrats say they saw a lot on election night that gives them hope going forward.

"There are lots of conversations that are happening internally and externally about 'what do we do next? What are the next steps?'" the party's executive director Jamarr Brown said. "We know we've got to keep recruiting diverse candidates that look like Texas, that look like the coalition. We've got to do our deep organizing year round, not just in elections, and those are things that we can incrementally build toward."

'Incremental' seems to be the word to describe Democrats gains in Texas as a new cycle is already underway.

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