HOUSTON — Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso, Texas, congressman who became a darling of Democrats after nearly defeating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, is inching closer to announcing a run for governor of Texas, according to three people who have spoken with him.
In recent weeks, O’Rourke has been making calls to Democratic leaders across Texas to inform them that he is seriously considering taking on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who is up for reelection next year. And O'Rourke has begun talking to supporters about having them join his campaign staff. A decision could be made in the coming weeks, the three people said, possibly as soon as October.
Democrats in Texas have urged O’Rourke to get into the race for governor almost from the moment he dropped out of the 2020 race for president, a quixotic effort that stumbled early and failed to gain traction amid a crowded primary field.
But despite his troubles on the national stage, O’Rourke has maintained a deep wellspring of support in Texas, where many Democrats still display the black-and-white Beto signs from the 2018 campaign on their lawns and on their cars.
O’Rourke did not respond to calls or text messages seeking comment.
David Wysong, a longtime adviser to O’Rourke, cautioned that “no decision has been made” on a run for governor. The three people who discussed their conversations with O’Rourke are Democratic officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about conversations that were meant to be private.
No Democrat has been elected governor of Texas since Ann Richards in 1990. And no prominent Democrat has emerged to take on Abbott next year. The governor, who has built up a war chest of more than $55 million, has appeared more concerned with insulating himself from challengers on his right in a Republican primary than worrying about the general election.
Over the past few months, Texas has bounced from crisis to crisis — including a surge in pandemic deaths and a winter failure of the electric grid — while Republican leaders in Austin have steered the state even farther to the right on issues from guns to abortion.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.