Professors: O’Rourke faces ‘uphill fight’ for Texas governor’s mansion

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A pair of political experts believe former Congressman Beto O’Rourke will face an “uphill fight” in his quest for the Texas governor’s mansion.

The one-time presidential candidate from El Paso officially announced Monday he is running to unseat incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott roughly a year from now.

St. Edward’s University political professor Brian W. Smith told KXAN O’Rourke’s high name recognition is both a blessing and a curse.

“He’s not going to have to spend a lot of time introducing himself to the public, running ads, trying to say, ‘Here’s who I am,” Smith said. “But the curse on that means lots of people have already made up their opinions.”

O’Rourke is coming off two unsuccessful campaigns over the last few years. In 2018, he came within striking distance of Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before mounting a bid for the White House during the 2020 cycle.

Smith said that O’Rourke has a lot riding on this gubernatorial run, saying, “This may be his last chance at the brass ring, trying to become a statewide elected official.”

James Henson, director of UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project, said political records aside, any Democrat looking to run for statewide office starts “from a deficit.” Texas has not elected a Democratic governor since 1990.

“It’s not unreasonable to think that some people are going to run several times and lose before they break through,” he told KXAN, adding, “If there’s anything that we’ve learned over the last two or three election cycles, it’s that a lot can happen.”

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