(NewsNation) — Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is putting abortion rights at the forefront of his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whom he trails by seven points according to new polls.
Texas has not had a Democratic governor since Ann Richards left office in 1995, which means O’Rourke, as he seems to understand, will have to flip Republican voters to his side. To do this, he is pushing issues of abortion, Medicaid and public education into the political narrative in deep red areas of Texas.
“They need someone who is going to fight for them,” O’Rourke said in an interview with NewsNation affiliate KXAN. “For those teachers to be able to earn a living wage, to expand Medicaid so more people can see a doctor and ensure every woman can make her own decisions about her own body and own future.”
O’Rourke’s campaign in Texas appears to be taking a page from the campaigns of Democrats nationwide, which have sought to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion law Roe v. Wade.
Vice President Kamala Harris is on a cross-country tour where she has consistently harkened on abortion rights as a main issue for midterm voters, a tune she hit on during a visit to Houston.
Democrats like Harris and O’Rourke in Texas are hoping Republicans anti-abortion stance, one which goes against what a majority of Americans want, can help candidates like O’Rourke pull of midterm upsets. O’Rourke has painted abortion rights as an issue most Texans agree on.
“People want to make sure that we restore protections for every Texas woman to make her own decisions about her own body, that’s about a universal as we get.” O’Rourke said.
In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, an Abbott spokesperson clapped back at O’Rourke’s support of abortion rights, labeling it as extreme.
“What’s extreme are Beto O’Rourke’s abortion views that would have doctors killing babies up to the moment of birth and stopping life-saving care for babies who survive abortion,” said Abbott campaign spokesperson Renae Eze. “Governor Abbott has fought to protect the lives of both the mother and the child, providing more pre-natal and post-partum care for mothers and expanding the Alternatives to Abortion program by more than 800% since he first took office.”