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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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Beto O’Rourke visits A&M during Texas college tour

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks in Rudder Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

Thirty-five days ahead of Election Day, Democratic nominee for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke visited Texas A&M’s campus — hitting his most controversial talking points at the state’s largest university. 

Hundreds of students gathered in Rudder Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 28, to hear O’Rourke speak about the state’s largest issues, including abortion rights, gun violence and the power grid. Six months after his previous visit to College Station in March, ahead of the gubernatorial election, O’Rourke honed in on specific goals he hopes to achieve if elected to office.  

Following his opening remarks, O’Rourke spoke on the issue of abortion in Texas, citing the story of Texas women prevailing in the original 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case  ultimately winning the constitutional right to abortion. After the case was overturned in June, O’Rourke said it is now up to voters to return rights to women. 

“If Texas women want the right for privacy, to access abortion, to make their own decisions about their own bodies, I bet in 2022, women are going to win it back right here in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. 

O’Rourke then transitioned to current Gov. Greg Abbott’s failures to maintain the Texas power grid in extreme weather — resulting in the death of almost 700 Texans in February 2021. 

“The fact is we’re reminded earlier that the people in power can’t keep the power on for the people that they serve,” O’Rourke said. “Last February, your lights went out, heat stopped running [and] water stopped flowing because it was literally frozen in your pipes.”

In addition to the power grid failure, O’Rourke cited Abbott’s missteps to prevent and respond to the Uvalde tragedy in May. O’Rourke described his goals of implementing a red-flag law, universal background checks and raising the age of purchase for AR-15s to 21 years old. He said it’s important to put children first, above gun lobbyists and the National Rifle Association. 

“[The children in Uvalde] were defenseless against a governor who would not lift a finger to prevent that from happening in their school, this school or any other classroom across the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “Five of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have taken place on this governor’s watch.”

O’Rourke ran through a list of his goals in office including: eliminating the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test; lowering the rate of adolescent diabetes in Texas; increasing mental health services outside of the county jail system; Medicaid expansion and property taxes. 

To conclude his speech, O’Rourke criticized the current treatment of U.S. veterans which results in homelessness, fatal disease and mental illness — some issues which he believes could be resolved with legalized marijuana. O’Rourke said beyond legalizing the substance, he intends to expunge arrest records for anyone charged with marijuana possession or use. 

“All customers of all ethnicities and all races and all backgrounds use marijuana at roughly the same rate,” O’Rourke said. “But disproportionately, it will be Black and brown Texans who are stopped, who are frisked, who are incarcerated for possession.”

Standing outside of O’Rourke’s speech were protesters showing their support for the current governor. One protester, John Nicks, said he believes O’Rourke will only have negative effects on the state, if elected. 

“There’s just a lot of things that Beto [O’Rourke] does that I just don’t like,” Nicks said. 

Volunteers were present at the event to sign students up to go door-to-door urging their peers to vote in the upcoming election. Business management senior Yovanka Gonzalez said it’s important for students to be informed on O’Rourke’s policies. 

“I think there’s a huge miscommunication and misinformation happening [often] on the internet,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very important and vital for college students to come out and hear politicians themselves talk about their policies, and the importance of that, especially when it comes to voting and considering that we had the early voting location taken away here from the [Memorial Student Center].”

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