Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke hosts rally on campus as first stop of Texas college tour

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke wore a burnt orange hat as he hosted a rally in front of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on Monday to address students on the first stop of his College Tour across Texas.

Hundreds of students crowded around O’Rourke as he spoke on the political power of young people, the legality of abortion and voter suppression. 

“The women of Texas won women’s rights 50 years ago, (and) it’d be the women of Texas to bring them back in 2022,” O’Rourke said. “It’s a reminder that the challenges that we face today are so extraordinary, and we may be tempted to think unprecedented. We can overcome them.“

O’Rourke is currently working to close the five-point lead that polls project incumbent Greg Abbott to hold in the November election. O’Rourke said that student votes can impact the election results. 

“We together must decide that we need a match for this moment,” O’Rourke said. “In your own words, from your own heart, you describe the stakes of this election.”

Advertising freshman Jarrett Stewart, who attended the rally, has supported O’Rourke since his 2018 Senate campaign, before Stewart was eligible to vote. 

“I was super excited to get to vote for him in the primary, that was my first time ever getting to vote,” Stewart said. “I know that a lot of (college students) are very active in politics, but it’s super hard to feel energized and want to vote.”

Neuroscience sophomore Neha Dhanekula said she plans to vote for O’Rourke because of his effort to advocate for underrepresented voices and his plans to reverse the state’s current abortion ban. She said students should continue to be active in politics, even if O’Rourke doesn’t win this race.

“It’s a very long process and one minor loss shouldn’t deter people from continuing to participate in politics,” Dhanekula said. “We can look at history and see it’s taken forever to get to where we are. We probably need to wait just as long to make all of the improvements that we are hoping to make (currently). If we get discouraged, then we won’t get anywhere.”

O’Rourke’s speech addressed the 7 million Texans who chose not to vote in the 2020 election, calling for election day to become a state holiday and encouraging everyone to register to vote to cast their ballot.

“The very people who have been the target of voter suppression and intimidation, … The very people who Greg Abbott thought he had drawn out of this democracy, they will provide the margin of victory when we win this (Nov. 8)” O’Rourke said.