Ads Begin in Texas Governor Race, With O’Rourke’s Highlighting Abortion
HOUSTON — With early voting now two months away, the ad competition has begun in the race for Texas governor. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott released a first ad and, on Thursday, Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman and perennial Democratic hopeful, countered with two of his own.
The O’Rourke campaign, looking for leverage in a tightening but still uphill campaign, focused on abortion, seeking to harness anger among women at the overturning of Roe v. Wade and to direct that anger at Mr. Abbott.
Its two ads were released on the day that a so-called trigger law — made possible by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade — went into effect in Texas. The law, signed last year by Mr. Abbott, bans abortion with no exception for rape or incest and with only limited medical exceptions.
“From this day forward, Aug. 25, women all across Texas are no longer free,” several women say in one ad, speaking one after another. “All because of Greg Abbott’s abortion law.”
“So I’m voting for Beto, who will give women our freedom back,” they conclude.
Another 30-second ad from Mr. O’Rourke similarly seeks to link him to the idea of freedom, trying to recapture a word that is more often used by Republicans. That ad, also focused on the state’s abortion ban under Mr. Abbott, features a politically mixed Texas couple who are now both supporting Mr. O’Rourke.
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“This is a free country,” says the husband, Trey Ramsey, shown as a lifelong Republican who supported former president Donald J. Trump. “We need a governor who gets that, and that’s Beto.”
The ad appeared to be part of a strategy by Mr. O’Rourke to challenge Mr. Abbott for wavering Republican votes, including in typically conservative strongholds around rural Texas. In recent weeks, he has crisscrossed the state, appearing in front of supportive crowds in deep-red areas but occasionally attracting vocal, and armed, protesters.
In contrast to Mr. O’Rourke’s attacks, the governor’s campaign opted for a strategy for its first ad that has worked well in previous elections: a biographical portrait of the governor, a two-term incumbent who uses a wheelchair and has been in statewide elective office in Texas since the 1990s.
The ad recounts his recovery from an accident that partly paralyzed him and is narrated by his wife, Cecilia, who is Hispanic. The governor’s campaign has said it believes Mr. Abbott can win a majority of Hispanic voters, who have been increasingly turning to Republicans, particularly in more rural areas of South Texas.
“Hard work, perseverance and family: That’s what defines Greg Abbott and how he governs Texas,” Mrs. Abbott says.
The ad is the first of what is likely to be a barrage of messages from Mr. Abbott, who has vowed to spend $100 million on the race and whose campaign has already secured some $20 million in television and digital space for ads.
Mr. O’Rourke, also a proficient fund-raiser, started behind Mr. Abbott, who entered the race with tens of millions on hand. As of the July filing, the governor had $46 million on hand and Mr. O’Rourke had $24 million. The O’Rourke campaign has repeatedly stressed to potential donors the high cost of advertising statewide in Texas.
Several polls in recent weeks put Mr. O’Rourke at five to seven percentage points behind Mr. Abbott, who won in 2018 by 13 percentage points.