Abortion, border, guns: Issues to watch in Texas governor debate

Texas Governor Debate

(NewsNation) — A day before their first and only debate of the campaign season, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke both released new campaign ads.

Though the two candidates have not minced words about each other during their campaigns, their most recent ads have starkly different tones:

The new ads are just a precursor to the debate Friday night during which the candidates are expected to spar on a number of hotbutton issues.

The debate will be broadcast exclusively on NewsNation from 7-8 p.m. Central. Unsure of how to watch? Use NewsNation’s Channel Finder app.

Here’s a look at the key issues Abbott and O’Rourke are expected to address Friday:

Immigration And the Border

Immigration has been a central issue to the Republican party ahead of November’s midterms, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has led the pack of GOP politicians campaigning on solving the crisis at the border which has seen a record number of migrant encounters.

Abbott made national headlines earlier this year when he started sending busloads of migrants to liberal strongholds like Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. For months, Abbott has butted heads with the federal government over Congress’ lack of action at the border.

On the flip side, O’Rourke has lambasted Abbott’s busing of migrants, calling it “cruel and unkind.”

“What I propose, though, is instead of these stunts, which are so cruel and unkind not just to those migrants but those of us who live in Texas, Border Patrol agents who we put on their backs this entire immigration system that is so badly broken, what if instead we had a Texas-based guest worker program?” O’Rourke said.

Polling shows most voters agree with Abbott’s border policies, favoring arrests of migrants at the border and the deployment of the Texas National Guard.

See more of NewsNation’s coverage of the border here.

Abortion

O’Rourke, like many other Democrats, put abortion rights at the forefront of his campaign after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn landmark abortion law Roe v. Wade last month — a move that polls show was widely unpopular.

“Every Texan needs to know what Greg Abbott has done to the women of this state. Share our new ad, and join us in defeating him,” O’Rourke’s campaign tweeted.

O’Rourke took shots at Abbott after the incumbent governor suggested rape victims in Texas can avoid pregnancy by taking Plan B contraception pills.

Abbott fired back at O’Rourke’s jabs in a statement to the Dallas Morning News which read:

“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.”

Guns

The horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead, pushed gun rights to the forefront of O’Rourke’s campaign as he reminded voters of the multiple mass tragedies that have taken place in the state during Abbott’s term.

O’Rourke made national headlines when he confronted Abbott during a press conference in the immediate wake of the shooting. The expletive-laced confrontation ended with O’Rourke being removed from the press conference.

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke shouted at Abbott. “This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

While the Democrat once said, “Hell yeah we’re gonna take your AR-15’s,” he has since softened his hardline stance on guns, saying as governor he would raise the age to purchase an AR-15 to 21, establish red flag laws and universal background checks.

Abbott said it would be “unconstitutional” to raise the age to purchase an AR-15, a claim that doesn’t hold up to a fact check.

Electrical reliability council of texas

Courts in Texas are still sorting through the fallout from the 2021 winter storm which crippled the state’s power grid. The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas is facing lawsuits and heavy scrutiny about its handling of the storm that left millions without power in the winter cold.

Abbott met with officials from ERCOT in early September and was assured by officials that the power grid was in strong shape headed into the fall and winter, according to NewsNation affiliate KXAN.

The incumbent governor has said reforms to ERCOT will be ongoing.

“The State of Texas continues to monitor the reliability of our electric grid, and I thank ERCOT and PUC for their hard work to implement bipartisan reforms we passed last year and for their proactive leadership to ensure our grid is stronger than ever before,” Abbott said.

O’Rourke has said the best way to fix the Texas power grid, which he says is still broken, is to connect it to the national power grid.

“This failed grid does not have to be our future,” O’Rourke said in an interview with KXXV. “Not only did we have three conservation notices this summer because the grid is still not fixed, Toyota canceled their third shift in San Antonio because they were drawing down too much power from the grid. We need to winterize and weatherize every inch of this grid.”

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