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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

A guide to Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial election candidates

Photo by Graphic by Gabrielle Shreve

Opinion writer Zach Freeman discusses intra-party fighting within the Democratic Party and why they shouldn’t blame progressives if they want to succeed.

In recent years, what has been regarded as an uneventful election cycle in Texas is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated midterm elections in the state since the 1990s.
So far, the Texas gubernatorial election of 2022 has 13 candidates, with five Democrats and eight Republicans. Presently, Beto O’Rourke, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and Gov. Greg Abbott stand as the favorites for their respective parties. Each front-runner, however, faces a unique lineup of challengers spanning the full spectrum of the country’s political climate.
Beto O’Rourke (Democrat)
O’Rourke first garnered state and national attention when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 and lost by a margin of less than 3% against incumbent Ted Cruz. Two years later, he again gained national coverage after a failed 2020 presidential bid for the democratic nomination. For this state race, O’Rourke’s campaign announced that he has raised $7.4 million so far, outpacing all other candidates.
O’Rourke brings along with him the possibility of a tight race, political science professor Anthony Ives, Ph.D., said.
“Over the past 10 years there has been a slow increase in the competitiveness of elections, and in Texas elections are often not competitive,” Ives said. “So, that all gives anticipation to the prospects of this perhaps being a close gubernatorial election.”
It is not out of the realm of possibility for state governors to differ from their state’s political tendencies, but such candidates tend to be more moderate, Ives said.
“[O’Rourke] is well known … he is not, however, someone known for having more moderate views than the typical Democrat, and that is likely to hurt him,” Ives said.
The notoriety O’Rourke earned during his presidential campaign was not all positive, which may influence Texas voters, Ives said.
“We just have to keep in mind the saying that, ‘Not all publicity is good publicity,’ not in politics,” Ives said. “If you’re very publicly known for thinking something that the majority of voters don’t think in the state you’re planning to run, that’s not very helpful.”
Ives said he has doubts about whether the gubernatorial election will have a similar course of events as the Senate election in 2018.
“That election came down to the generic [likeability] of [O’Rourke] compared to a generic [dislike], for a certain segment of the population, of Ted Cruz,” Ives said. “Greg Abbott does not have that personal factor, and I would be very surprised if the election were as close.”
Even if O’Rourke loses this race, the publicity and experience may still have a positive effect for him and his team, Ives said.
“Sometimes people win by losing … their loss provides such organizing and such potential reality that something good comes from it later,” Ives said.
Melissa Alfaro, the communications director for Annie’s List, a Texas-based committee supporting the election of progressive women, said organization will be critical for the outcome of O’Rourke’s campaign.
“In 2018, when [O’Rourke] came as close as he did to winning the Senate seat, women had a huge role to play both in the success of his campaign and also [the turnout of] women voters,” Alfaro said. “When you look at who voted for Beto, it was women.”
Greg Abbott (Republican)
Abbott has been the governor of Texas since January of 2015, and has recently entered national controversy for both his reversal of COVID-19 guidelines and his aggressive approach to border security. He has also raised over $18.6 million with an additional $65 million from his existing “war chest,” according to the Texas Tribune.
It’s unlikely that Abbott will lose the Republican nomination, but there are no guarantees in the current political climate, political science professor Kirbey Goidel, Ph.D., said.
“I would be surprised if he lost the nomination,” Goidel said. “When we look at the things we know as political scientists in contemporary politics … there’s a lot more surprises than we would expect.”
Abbott is likely most concerned with drawing criticism from his contemporaries, Goidel said.
“Probably the bigger danger for him is simply that [when] you go through an electoral cycle it is nice, if you are the incumbent of the governing party, that you can minimize opposition,” Goidel said. “Because we tend to take it a little more seriously when a Republican is criticising a Republican, rather than a Democrat criticizing a Republican.”
Given the history of Texas voters, Goidel said Abbott holds a strong advantage over other candidates.
“The context works against [O’Rourke], so if I had to bet, I’d take Abbott, but that’s because he is sort of playing with a home field advantage,” Goidel said. “Not only is he the incumbent, but he is running in a year that is probably going to be hard on the Democratic Party.”
Don Huffines (Republican)

One source of such criticism is Huffines, a fellow Republican running on the platform of being, “an actual Republican for governor.” According to his campaign website, Huffines is 100% pro-life and 100% pro-gun. Some of his other top concerns are border security, election integrity and limiting federal oversight into Texans’ medical decisions.

Even with this likelihood, previous trends should not discourage people from voting, Ives said.

“I always advocate for students to continue thinking about how they can organize and mobilize people around their views,” Ives said. “If [they] think they’re good views, that’s what they should do.”

Given some of the recent laws passed in the state, Alfaro said, women especially should consider becoming involved.

“I think it’s really important that young women get involved in the process because, as we see, they’re being affected by these really bad laws.”
Other Candidates:
Allen West (Republican)
The former state party chairman, West is running on the platform of rule of law, border security, energy independence and curtailing foreign influence.
Danny Harrison (Republican)
Small business owner from North Texas is running on the platform of a Texas-first government. According to his website, he is not a career politician and wants to protect local businesses and private property.
Paul Belew (Republican)
A Wise County resident with a background in criminal defense who wants to protect Texans from government institutions encroaching on their rights. He also believes the legalization of THC would bring in tax revenue and allow for lower property taxes.
Rick Lynn Perry (Republican)
A Springtown resident with a background in computer engineering who, so far, has gained attention for commonly being confused with former Gov. Rick Perry. Not much is known about his political stance, and some have raised concerns over his candidacy possibly being a plot to trick unknowing voters.
Chad Prather (Republican)
According to his campaign website, he is a “modern day Will Rogers,” and a conservative YouTube commentator who wants to put Texas first. His main focuses are border security, education and removing COVID-19 regulations.
Michael Cooper (Democrat)
A former automotive executive who is concerned with climate change action, improving education and criminal justice reform.
Joy Diaz (Democrat)
A former reporter for radio station KUT Austin who wants to prioritize healthcare and sustainable energy.
Rick Wakeland (Democrat)
A retired U.S. Navy reserve captain, former engineer and licensed attorney running on the platform of being a conservative democrat for Texas.

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