‘Abbott is betting on our lives,’ says O’Rourke after Texas governor pledges Texas power will remain in winter
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke has said Gov. Greg Abbott is making a dangerous promise ahead of winter in Texas.
“Abbott bets our lives on the weather”, O’Rourke tweeted Sunday. It comes after Abbott said last week he could “guarantee the lights stay on” this winter in Texas – just 10 months after the failures of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls the Most of the electricity in the state, left millions of Texans in the dark for days in freezing temperatures.
At least 210 Texans have died of causes related to the February winter storm, at the last count in July. The state’s health services department said the majority of confirmed deaths were associated with hypothermia.
The power outages sparked sweeping changes at ERCOT, including the resignation of its CEO and several board members, several laws requiring facilities to weatherize for extreme conditions, and improved communication and alerts to prevent demand to exceed supply. Abbott says these changes will be enough to avert another disaster.
“During the winter storm, too many Texans were left without heat or power for days, and I immediately proceeded to reform the ERCOT and weatherproof the emergency elements of the electrical system,” Abbott said previously. “We pledged not to leave the session until we resolve these issues, and I’m proud to say we’ve kept that promise. These laws will improve the reliability of the electricity grid and help ensure that these problems do not recur. “
But O’Rourke is not sold on the promise.
Ahead of an election appearance in Austin on Saturday, he tweeted: “A day after Abbott ‘guaranteed’ he would keep the lights on last winter, millions of people lost power and 700 died. Now he guarantees he’s fixed the grid, but power operators are telling us to prepare for more outages. His word is meaningless, dangerous, and could be killed even more. “
O’Rourke vs. Abbott
Abbott and O’Rourke were quick to voice their opinions on each other.
“I think there are plenty of reasons for people to fire Greg Abbott as governor,” O’Rourke said after his announcement in November. “In fact, they are growing day by day, and when we could look at 72,000 lives lost in Texas by its failure to meet the challenges of this COVID pandemic, or the hundreds of people who were killed in a winter storm, not because of nature, but because of Greg Abbott and his inability to make sure the power grid worked for all Texans.
Meanwhile, Governor Abbott has launched several of his own criticisms against O’Rourke – particularly on what he sees as corollaries between O’Rourke and the president.
“Beto O’Rourke has shown that he has more in common with President Biden than with the Texans…” Abbott said last month. “The last thing Texans need is President Biden’s radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O’Rourke. The contrast for the Texas leadership couldn’t be clearer.
A recent poll by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation found that 43% of registered voters said they would vote for Abbott and 42% said they would vote for O’Rourke.
While Democrat O’Rourke has not held public office since 2019, he has remained among Texas’ biggest political stars.
O’Rourke’s 2018 race to topple U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was a historically narrow defeat, and for many, represented a shifting electorate in Lone Star State. The 49-year-old also campaigned for the 2020 US presidential election, but suspended his campaign in November 2019.
Of those Texans who voted in 2020, 44% said Abbott would get their vote in 2022. Forty-three percent said O’Rourke would get theirs.
Follow KXAN’s Russell Falcon on Twitter @RussellFalcon for moree Texas Policy Updates.