Beto and elderly couple

Beto O'Rourke chats with local residents Ron Melugin and Patsy Wilson, as dozens more wait in line to take pictures with 2022 Democratic candidate for governor. "Beto's a great candidate. He'll be good for Texas. We need to replace that sorry governor we got," said Melugin, a former Cooke County Democratic Party chair.

GAINESVILLE – Beto O’Rourke brought his gubernatorial campaign to Gainesville Sunday, rallying supporters in a noontime appearance at the city’s downtown Farmers Market.

The El Paso Democrat, who is running to replace incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott, shook hands with over 100 supporters, posed for pictures and answered questions.

The former three-term Congressman told the Register that the only way he and his party can compete in heavily Republican North Texas is by showing up often and working to shake out as many votes as possible.

“You have to show up here; there's no way to do this remotely. You can't phone it in,” O’Rourke said. “This is my third time coming to Cooke County and having a chance to listen to people. We were looking at the vote margins over 2014, 2016 and 2018 – every year they have improved and we had a nice jump in in 2018.

“And as you know, we're unlikely to win the county outright, but if we can win more votes in each one of these (Republican counties) that contributes to the overall total that we're looking for at the end of the day.”

O’Rourke said he can win the election by talking about the issues affecting Cooke County, including:

Public education

“You cannot ask the homeowner, the property taxpayer, to continue to foot the bill. There just aren't enough property taxes that people can pay to get teacher pay here (in rural Texas) competitive. So the state has to kick in the way the state used to kick in.

“Every single year, every decade, the state is paying a smaller and smaller share of what it costs to pay a teacher to keep these schools going. So we need to turn that around. It's a matter of priorities. We either believe in public education and support public educators, or we don't, and it's time that the governor and the legislature put their money where their mouth is.”

Medicaid expansion

“This is one of the communities that would really benefit from that. More people being able to see a doctor and bringing more providers to this community and surrounding communities is important.”

Gun control

“Like the folks in Cooke County … I grew up with guns (in El Paso) and grew up with understanding the responsibility of owning that firearm and making sure that we're safe with it.

“So, let's cherish our culture of hunting, gun ownership, military service … and make sure that we defend the Second Amendment and also keep each other safe. I think there's a lot of common ground there – I really, really do.

“We can do that in terms of things that we need to change, (like) this permitless carry deal that Abbott signed into law at a time of rising violent crime. We've got to make sure that we don't allow criminals carrying loaded guns in public, and that's exactly what the governor's done. It's why it was opposed by law enforcement, police, chiefs, sheriffs, veterans and others who realized that's not the right way to build on our tradition of responsible gun ownership. I know we can do better and I've got faith in and trust the people of Texas to do that.”

Working with Republicans if elected

“You know, when I was in the United States Congress, I was in the minority for all six years and served on the Veterans Affairs committee. The only way I got anything passed was by finding and moving forward from common ground with Republicans. We were able to author a bill, and got it signed into law by Donald Trump, that expanded mental health care access for veterans.

“You've got to find the consensus or compromise that allows you to move forward. I'm purposely not choosing an agenda that's cooked up by the Democratic National Committee or is every progressive policy wish list. I'm looking at the things that we can actually get done and the Republicans and Democrats can agree on – jobs, schools, being able to see a doctor – there's a lot of common ground there.

“I think that's a great contrast to what you see from Abbott and legislature right now. This reproductive healthcare ban, this permitless carry law, the focus on transgender students? These are culture wars that aren't connected to the bread and butter kitchen table issues that we care about in our lives.”

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