Beto O’Rourke makes campaign stop in Lubbock, talks about public education, healthcare and jobs

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) — Beto O’Rourke made his second campaign stop in Lubbock at the Garden late Sunday morning.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, sporting a red Texas Tech hat, addressed a crowd of about 100 at 11:30 a.m. in downtown Lubbock.

“We go everywhere, listening to everyone, talking to everyone, making sure no one is written off and no one is taken for granted. This moment is calling us all,” O’Rourke opened. “We do not care – no import – If you’re a Republican. If you’re a Republican and you’re here, you’re welcome. Democrats, we want to see you too. Independents, we need more of you in our lives right now. All of us in Texas are welcome here because all of us in Texas are needed to get this state on the right track.

O’Rourke spoke on a wide range of topics, saying the top three issues facing Texans today are jobs, education and health care.

“The issues that bring us together, I would say, are far bigger, stronger and more powerful than anything that could divide us right now in this highly polarized and fractured state where we struggle to listen to each other. See the best in others. Trusting each other so we can get back to the big stuff,” O’Rourke said.

On public education

O’Rourke said public educators are overworked and underpaid, and argued that on top of that they are under attack from the state government. He also said he would prioritize teacher retention by raising public educator salaries and canceling the STAAR test, getting an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd, which included several public educators.

“Seven out of 10 fourth graders are unable to read at the grade level in the state of Texas. 70%,” O’Rourke said. “It can’t be a reflection on those teachers or those kids or those parents or us as Texans. It must be something else. And when I go into the data, I find this: the average educator in the city of Lubbock is underpaid by $14,000 a year compared to the average educator nationally… Why not pay teachers at their true value and value right here in the state of Texas?”

About health care

“We live in the most uninsured state in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “It means that far too many people are literally dying from diabetes, from curable cancers, from the flu in the year of grace 2022, in the richest, most powerful and most medically advanced country the world has. never known. It is inadmissible, it is immoral.

According to the Texas Medical Association, O’Rourke is correct that Texas is the least insured state in the nation. Nearly four and a half million Texans lack health insurance, at rates almost twice the national average.

O’Rourke also argued that Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid in the state was closing rural hospitals, leaving millions in Texas without insurance or easy access to medical care.

on energy

O’Rourke attacked Abbott for its failure to address power grid vulnerabilities before last year’s winter storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without power, resulting in at least 100 deaths, according to the AP. O’Rourke questioned Abbott’s ties to power companies and utility providers that saw large profits during the storm.

“If that’s not corruption, I don’t know what is. He’s taking million-dollar campaign contributions from the same people who stole that money from the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said, referring to additional taxes imposed on electric bills as a result of the winter storm.

O’Rourke also pointed to the need for renewable power generation in Texas amid record gas prices. He argued that expanding current jobs in the oil and gas sector in the state, combined with increasing production from sources such as wind and solar, will help the state, and the nation as a whole, to become energy independent.

“We clearly want to keep the oil and gas jobs that we have here right now. And we want to develop them,” O’Rourke said. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes it clear that we need to have energy independence in America… There is one state that has the unique ability to do that, and that’s Texas. So let’s protect and let’s expand the oil and gas jobs in the state of Texas, but let’s also make sure we expand the renewable energy resources Wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen – it’s up to us to lead right here in the state of Texas.

O’Rourke then answered questions from the crowd on topics ranging from border security, mental health care, environmental security, voting rights, gerrymandering and term limits, legalization of marijuana and LGBTQ+ issues.

On border security

O’Rourke acknowledged the challenges on the country’s southern border, saying he wanted to address issues such as drug trafficking and human trafficking, but harshly criticized Abbott’s activation of the National Guard of the Texas, describing the operation as “political theater” and “a solution in search of a problem.

Although he did not say what he would do differently to combat drug trafficking and illegal immigration, O’Rourke argued that making it easier to enter the country and obtain legal citizenship reduce the number of people trying to cross the border. illegally.

On the Second Amendment

O’Rourke came under scrutiny during his short-lived campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, when he advocated for mandatory buy-back programs for weapons such as AR-15s and the AK-47s. He attempted to walk back those comments, saying he wanted to protect the Second Amendment, but called for “common sense” legislation that would aim to reduce gun violence.

“Where do we find common ground on the Second Amendment? Let’s make sure we protect your right to have guns, but we do a better job of protecting the lives of people in our community,” O’Rourke said. “So universal background checks, which means if you buy a gun in the state of Texas, there will be a check to make sure you’re not going to hurt yourself or anyone else. other in your community. I know gun owners and non-gun owners can support that one. It is a starting point.

Other policies he proposed were safe storage laws, aimed at preventing children from accessing firearms and accidentally or intentionally harming themselves or others, and protective orders against extreme risks, also known as red flag laws, which would remove firearms from someone deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.

O’Rourke also blasted Texas’ new license-free transportation policy, signed into law last year by Governor Abbott.

“What the governor did last year, signing a license-free law, is not in keeping with the best traditions of responsible gun ownership in Texas,” O’Rourke said. “Look, I support a carry license program… But allowing anyone to carry a loaded gun in public when more cops have been shot in the state of Texas than any other state, that’s why the police and sheriffs argued with the governor. , begged him, ‘Please don’t sign this into law. It’s going to make our jobs harder, it’s going to make life as a cop more deadly and this is going to make it harder to protect the people we serve in our communities.He turned his back on them and did it anyway.

The final question for the event came from a young man who said he agreed with O’Rourke on many of the issues discussed, but was not ready to “vote his guns”.

O’Rourke responded by saying he wanted to protect the Second Amendment, but like other constitutionally protected rights, it is not unlimited.

“It’s a question of where we draw that line,” O’Rourke said. “You and I see the line in different places, and I respect where you want to draw the line and maybe you understand where I want to draw the line. The beauty of this form of government is that neither you nor I can impose our will on anyone else. This is going to take consensus, debate and dialogue until we finally come up with something better than what exists today.

On higher education

The Permanent University Fund (PUF) has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, leading many to appeal to Governor Abbott (or a potential Governor O’Rourke) to modify the fund. The PUF provides funding to the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems using money from West Texas Oil and Gas, although West Texas schools like Texas Tech are excluded from the fund.

Governor Abbott refused to approve the change to the PUF, saying it would require passing a constitutional amendment since the money comes from land allocated in the state constitution. Abbott said instead that he would seek a $1 billion endowment for Texas Tech.

READ MORE: Governor Abbott stops his campaign in Lubbock

O’Rourke, however, wholeheartedly supported modifying the PUF to include other university systems.

“I really think we need to make fundamental reforms to how public education is funded in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “UT has the largest endowment of any public university in the United States of America. And we’re proud of UT, we want them to succeed, but we want more of that wealth to stay in West Texas — and not a one-time deal, but we want it to be. permanently. When we do this, more young people in West Texas and the Panhandle can afford higher education.

O’Rourke closed the event by saying he’s in a better position to get things done that the majority of Texans support, like supporting jobs and innovation in the state, investing in public education and improving health. quality and access to health care. .

“I served in the United States Congress for six years, every year as a member of the minority. The only way to do anything was to find common ground, consensus and – I know that it’s a dirty word in America right now, but – a compromise,” O’Rourke said. “…So we can find a way to get the job done, even if we think there’s no A lot of agreement between us. Those three things I started out with—jobs, good schools, and the ability to see a doctor—I know most Texans agree with.

The Texas gubernatorial election will take place on November 8, 2022.

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