LUBBOCK, Texas — Democratic candidate running for Texas Governor, Beto O’Rourke, visited Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock on Tuesday and discussed what he hopes to accomplish if he wins the 2022 gubernatorial election.
“We’re gonna focus on jobs, great schools, health care, and the ability to see a doctor for everyone,” O’Rourke said to the crowd of hundreds of people.
Over the course of the seven years since Greg Abbott has been governor, “he’s left $100 billion on the table of the federal government- money that was gonna come from Washington, DC, to Lubbock County, and the other 253 [counties] across Texas- to make sure that we can hire more doctors, more providers, more mental health care specialists,” O’Rourke stated.
He added that the largest provider of mental health care services in Texas is the county jail system.
O’Rourke expressed a desire to make sure that fewer people die of diabetes, curable cancers, or the flu- in what he says is “the ninth largest economy on the planet, and yet is the least insured place in America today.”
He declared, “We are going to expand Medicaid.”
O’Rourke said he has worked with Republican congressman Jodey Arrington to bring mental health care to U.S. Veterans. He said he’s made progress on delivering those medical services to people with the help of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
“We have built, with Texas Tech’s help, a brand new behavioral health center for veterans, specifically with post traumatic stress disorder, getting more people more care,” he said to a cheering crowd.
Reproductive healthcare and abortion
O’Rourke said he would repeal Senate Bill 8 on abortion, calling the ban “dangerous” and “deadly.”
“First of all, it puts a $10,000 bounty on the head of any woman who seeks to make her own reproductive health care decisions. Second, as we have seen clinic after clinic close around Texas, not only is it harder for women to get an abortion, but it’s more difficult to get a cervical cancer screening, family planning help, or to see a medical provider at all,” O’Rourke detailed.
He said these decisions can be attributed to the maternal mortality crisis in Texas, which is “three times as bad for women of color in the state.”
O’Rourke said he trusts Texas women to make decisions about their own bodies, healthcare and futures.
The Democratic candidate acknowledged the out-of-pocket expenses that many teachers are paying for without reimbursement, like teaching materials, school supplies, holiday decorations, and even food for students who don’t have much food at home.
“Once again, you pay to make sure that kid has some calories in her belly to burn while she’s doing that homework that you’ve assigned to her- so she would be just as competitive as every other child the next day,” he spoke, as several people nodded and verbalized affirmations.
He acknowledged that teachers are underpaid and often work multiple jobs to make ends meet, on top of the added stress that comes with standardized testing.
“I know most of you struggle with high stakes, high pressure, standardized tests that in no way adequately measure the potential of that child in front of you,” he explained, adding, all the while trying to evoke a lifelong love of learning.
Immigration and asylum seekers
Beto O’Rourke shared his desire to provide a legal path for immigrants and asylum seekers in Texas.
“I want to make sure that Texas is working with federal partners, be they Republicans or Democrats, to rewrite our immigration laws, so that they match our needs here,” O’Rourke stated.
He said “folks in and around Lubbock” have expressed interest in a guest worker program.
“So many who work in these cotton growing operations [and] in our communities have come from other countries. There needs to be a legal path for them to be able to do that,” O’Rourke explained.
“I want to make sure that high value, high wage, high tech, high skilled jobs are coming to Lubbock, the South Plains and all of these communities, including the rural ones around us,” which O’Rourke explained are “full of potential.”
Permanent University Fund
“West Texas, the South Plains, the Panhandle are contributing extraordinary wealth into the Permanent University Fund, all of which flows to A&M and UT, none of which comes to Texas Tech, the place where it literally originated,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke said the fund in general speaks to a larger problem in the South Plains region, which is “contributing the food, the fuel, the fiber, the resources that make the rest of the state successful,” and not seeing a return on investment.
“We absolutely need to change that fund so that those disbursements also come to Texas Tech,” he said.
Lowering the cost of utilities
O’Rourke expressed frustration with Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to veto the Universal Service Fund bill, which he said will inevitably lead to phone and internet rates increasing.
“It’s another example of how Greg Abbott is causing inflation, especially for rural communities in Texas that are already struggling with higher prescription drug prices, higher gasoline prices…” he said, adding, “When you take into account the higher utility bills after the failure in February with the grid, and now higher telephone and internet bills, we really have a problem in the South Plains.”
O’Rourke said he wants to make it clear that Governor Abbott is “really hurting these rural communities.”
“I want to make sure that we’re investing in rural communities, that we help them out on their utility bills, and that we lower rural phone and internet bills in West Texas, the Panhandle and other communities,” he added.
O’Rourke expressed worries for the City of Lubbock this winter, since much of Lubbock recently joined the ERCOT grid.
“I’m really concerned for Lubbock when it comes to joining ERCOT because we have not seen the necessary fixes to the grid that would protect customers should we have severe or extreme weather again.”
He said it’s important to weatherize every part of the grid, including the gas supply coming out of West Texas. He shared that it’s also important to be connected to the national grid for when Texas needs to “draw down power in an emergency.” He said another course of action he would take is capping gas prices amidst weather emergencies.
“What we saw in February is some people literally made billions of dollars on the gas market while millions of Texans were suffering,” O’Rourke said.
He said Governor Abbott’s potential conflicts of interest were the reason for the lack of change.
“We haven’t seen those changes made yet because it’s the same gas CEOs who are writing million dollar campaign contribution checks to Abbott. So, that conflict of interest has prevented him from taking care of the average Texan,” stated O’Rourke, adding that this is one of his priorities.
Decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana
O’Rourke cited the health benefits of marijuana as a reason for legalizing its use in Texas. However, he made sure to discuss the systemic problems that have risen from its usage, saying Black and Latino Texans have disproportionately been incarcerated for using and possessing it.
When asked about decriminalizing the substance, O’Rourke responded, “It is time for Texas to come into the 21st century, legalize marijuana and expunge the arrest records for those who served time for a substance that’s legal in most of the rest of the country.”
In his closing statements, O’Rourke said, “It does not matter what party you belong to. It does not matter how you love or who you love. It does not matter where you came from. All that matters is that you’re here- that you’re a human being. And we’re gonna treat you with the dignity and respect that you are owed.”