Beto O’Rourke discusses power grid, improving health care access at Texas Capitol rally


Kara Hawley

Beto O’Rourke speaks at his rally at the Texas AFL-CIO parking lot. He held a rally addressing the winter storm of 2021 and called for infrastructural improvements to Texas’ power grid.

Claire Stevens, News reporter

Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke called for infrastructural improvements to Texas’ power grid at a rally near the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday evening.

O’Rourke honored with a candle lighting the 246 lives lost during Storm Uri in February 2021, a winter storm that caused much of the state to lose power due to the failed Electric Reliability Council of Texas power grid. The rally was a part of a 12-day trip around Texas to discuss the impacts of the storm and O’Rourke’s plans to prevent similar situations ahead of early voting for primaries, which begins Monday.

“Even if the people in power cannot be trusted to deliver the power to the people of this state, let us make sure that the real power in Texas is always remembered as its people,” O’Rourke said

O’Rourke and other local speakers recalled the crisis, sharing stories of lost water and power, first responders overwhelmed and people dying in their homes due to the freezing temperatures and power outages. 

Zachary Krakauer Ganz, a communication and leadership sophomore, said he is a long-time O’Rourke fan and attended the event because improving the Texas power grid is an important issue to him after losing a family member in the winter storm.

“So many people my age really started getting involved in organizing because of his 2018 race,” Krakauer Ganz said. “We really have remained loyal to his message and his vision. For Texas and for America.”

Brian Peña, the campus director for the student advocacy organization University Democrats, said improving the power grid should be an important issue for all voters to consider in the gubernatorial election.

“This is life and death,” said Peña, a business, government and Plan II freshman.

O’Rourke also highlighted other issues facing Texans, calling them “storms that never end.” He discussed under-addressed issues in Texas such as ending homelessness, promoting gender equity, pandemic responsiveness and improved health care access.

Design freshman Avery Fox said she came to the event to hear how O’Rourke plans to improve the grid as she prepares to cast a ballot in her first gubernatorial election.

“My section of the neighborhood was able to keep our power on mostly, but I know a lot of friends and family that were displaced from their homes for days on end without any power, and that’s a very scary thing,” Fox said. “I want to know what he … says he can do for our infrastructure.”

Beto ended the event with a call to action for Austinites in the upcoming elections.

“This challenge is ours to overcome, these elections and these victories are ours to win, and together we will do it,” O’Rourke said.