I was in Austin this past weekend and it felt great to be back. With Texas still on my mind, here’s the latest news:
There’s no road trip, no soul searching. No beard or blogging. But Beto O’Rourke is making a political life decision again.
Three years after becoming Democrats’ breakout star out of Texas, and a year removed from crashing back to Earth in a short-lived presidential run, O’Rourke is again weighing another campaign — this time for governor.
But now O’Rourke, who teased an announcement of his bid for the White House on the cover of Vanity Fair, is being quiet about it. He says he hasn’t ruled out anything, but isn’t saying much else. And Texas Democrats are itching for an answer.
“Impatience is not the word for it,” Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “But anxious is.”
For months, O’Rourke has kept his options open. A top aide to the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate said O’Rouke, 48, has not ruled out challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022 but has taken no formal steps toward a campaign, like calling donors or recruiting staff. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private deliberations more freely.
If you want evidence that even just the thought of Beto running for Governor has Republicans in Texas nervous, here’s a good sign:
Focusing the minds for Democrats was the move by the GOP-led Texas Senate on Monday to vote for a bill that would end the need for people to obtain a license to carry handguns if not prohibited by state or federal law.
People in Texas must generally be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed and applicants must submit fingerprints, undergo training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test
Senate sponsor Sen. Charles Schwertner told the house floor it was a “simple restoration of Texans’ constitutional right under the Second Amendment,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Abbott, who has to sign the bill into law, signaled that he would back the legislation, saying in April, “we should have ‘constitutional carry’ in Texas.” This contrasts with O’Rourke’s stance on gun control, who spoke out against the bill during a press conference in Austin earlier this month.
“Texas has four of the deadliest mass shootings in this country’s history,” O’Rourke said. “In my hometown of El Paso, 23 people were murdered in 2019 in Walmart by a guy who could legally purchase an AK-47 that he ordered online.”
Webb County’s Democratic Party chairwoman, Sylvia Bruni, said that O’Rourke’s reaction following the 2019 shooting in which he said, “hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” could become a campaign trail issue.
So Abbott is already trying to kill O’Rourke’s chances before they begin by making it all about guns and gun control. But there’s one issue, cops hate Abbott and the Texas GOP’s gun bill:
Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo stressed Tuesday that police departments across the nation do not support a Texas gun bill that would allow adults to carry a handgun without having a background check, license and training.
“From chiefs to sheriffs to police labor, we do not support permit-less, open carry” measures, said Acevedo, the former Houston Police chief.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said he would sign the bill into law. Supporters of the bill call it “constitutional carry” and argue that requiring a permit or license impedes their constitutional right to bear arms.
“We do not support it. It is not needed … So he’s either going to support [police] in word and deed, or only in word” Acevedo said.
Pretty harsh words. Especially since Abbott is clearly a Blue Lives Matter type of guy:
On Monday, Abbott reiterated his promise to sign the bill that requires a municipality or county to hold an election before a local government can make any reduction or reallocation of law enforcement funds as a percentage of its total budget, reducing the number of officer positions or the budget for recruitment and training of new officers.
The bill, known as the “Back the Blue Act,” also states that if the Texas comptroller’s office determines that a local government cut funding without an election, the municipality could not raise property taxes for the next fiscal year. It was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate but was postponed by the House on Monday.
“We always #BacktheBlue. Which is why I made legislation preventing cities from defunding the police an emergency item this session,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.
The initiative comes amid nationwide debate over police reform after the killing of George Floyd last year, when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes before he died. Chauvin was convicted last month of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s killing sparked demonstrations across the country and prompted calls for major changes to policing, as well as for lawmakers to “defund the police,” which often meant putting funds reserved for law enforcement toward other social services, including housing, food and mental health programs.
Abbott has been a fierce opponent of any local efforts to defund cities’ police departments.