Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke pledges action on gun laws, abortion care at Austin rally


Kara Hawley

Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks to the Pan American Neighborhood Park crowd on June 26, 2022. O’Rourke held a rally for reproductive rights in response to SCOTUS’ decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke addressed potential voters at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday evening, pledging to make progressive strides on issues including gun control, women’s rights and healthcare in Texas if elected in November’s race.

O’Rourke planned a 49-day trip across the state to talk to Texans in over 65 counties, but the trip was briefly derailed last week when he got a bacterial infection. As election day draws closer, recent polling shows incumbent Greg Abbott holding a seven-point lead over O’Rourke.

“The people of Texas want a governor who’s going to bring us together based on the things that we have in common,” O’Rourke said.

Zachary Krakauer, who has volunteered with O’Rourke since his Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018, said O’Rourke addressing not only big cities like Austin, but also rural Texas counties, is an opportunity to connect with voters who many times feel forgotten.

“I’m a firm believer that we can do so much organizing on social media, especially with young people, but also we have to physically show up in communities, especially those that haven’t heard from a Democrat in so many decades,” communication and leadership junior Krakauer said while in attendance. “There are so many places around the state that just are not touched by campaigns, and if they don’t hear from campaigns, they might just not get out and vote.”

During his speech, O’Rourke brought out Manuel and Julissa Rizo, the aunt and uncle of Uvalde victim Jackie Cazares, and called for increased gun control by raising the minimum age required to purchase assault weapons.

“They are here in (Jackie’s) memory, to take the action necessary to ensure that no other family has to go through what they have been through,” O’Rourke said.

Robin Breed, a member of anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action present at the rally, said much of the legislation passed under Gov. Abbott related to gun regulation, including permitless carry in June of last year, has left her and others in her group disheartened and ready for new state leadership.

“Uvalde was such a horrible tragedy, but it is one of many that have occurred in our state,” Breed said. “We need to undo some of these (gun) laws that have been passed, we need to get somebody in (office) that can help keep the public safe.”

For all the current issues like women’s rights that are applicable to young voters, Breed said, they must put in the work to elect officials that represent their desire for change.

“I think that if you’re not fired up to vote in this election, it’s maybe just because you’re not really paying attention,” Breed said.

O’Rourke said historical moments like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have proven the power of young voters to push powerful political movements, and he hopes his campaign will demonstrate that strength.

“I know that young people are going to be the ones who lead us through,” O’Rourke said.