Interview with Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke is one of five Democrats who will appear in the March 1 primary, seeking to become the party's nominee for the state’s highest office.

O’Rourke is a former U.S. congressman. He has made addressing issues with the Texas power grid one of top priorities, as well as improving public schools, health care and jobs.

Why are you the best candidate for the job?

During my time in Congress and in the El Paso City Council, I forged bipartisan coalitions to pass policies and ordinances that had real impact on the communities I served. I kept a constant line of communication with my constituents, holding town hall meetings every week to listen to their concerns and ideas about how to make progress on everything from economic development, health care, education, voting access, criminal justice and beyond.

Even when not in office, I’ve done the work that is most important in Texas, whether that was delivering water and supplies to Texans during the power grid failure or leading an organization that has registered hundreds of thousands of voters during a time of significant voter suppression. I’ve done this work by putting in the effort to meet Texans where they are — holding town halls and conversations in every single one of Texas’ 254 counties.

This is in contrast to my opponent, who has stopped listening to, trusting and looking out for the people of this state — evidenced by the power grid failure, the fact that we lead the nation in child Covid hospitalizations, and by his extreme policies on reproductive rights, permitless carry and voter suppression that are out of touch with the majority of Texans. He’s focused on the wrong things, which is keeping us from making progress on the big things that matter, like schools, jobs and health care.

What do you believe is the biggest issue impacting Texans today?

Our biggest challenge is that we have a governor who is hurting us at every turn. You see it in the power grid failure, the 76,000 Texans who have died from COVID, the fact that our schools are underfunded by an average of $4,000 per student, and the fact that we lead the nation in the number of people who can’t afford to see a doctor or fill their prescriptions.

As governor, everything I do will be focused on helping Texans. I’ll weatherize the power grid, connect to the national grid, and invest in energy efficiency so that we never suffer another grid failure like we did last February. I will take COVID seriously and partner with local leaders to get the virus under control. I will prioritize our schools, increase the state’s share of school funding, and increase teacher pay. I will expand Medicaid to help ensure every Texan is well enough to pursue an education and secure a high-quality job.

Many businesses — and especially small businesses — were impacted by the pandemic. How would you assure Texas business owners of brighter days ahead?

We need to make the necessary investments in education and workforce development to ensure the companies relocating to Texas can employ locally, not by importing talent from out of state. While 71% of jobs in Texas will require a postsecondary credential by 2036, only 32% of high school graduates currently go on to earn one. In fact, migrants from other states and countries are 1.5 times more likely than native Texans to hold a bachelor’s degree, putting Texans at a competitive disadvantage when companies are recruiting for new jobs. As governor, I will prioritize education by fully funding public schools and increasing investments in community colleges, four-year colleges, and trade programs.

Reports have found that the state's electric grid is not prepared for another major freeze. How would you ensure a near-collapse of the grid would not happen again?

The governor hasn’t done nearly enough to ensure Texas has a reliable power grid going forward. To guarantee grid resiliency, we must: first, weatherize all elements of the grid, including gas supply. Second, connect to the national grid, which will allow us to draw down power when we need it most and sell excess capacity to other states. Third, invest in targeted energy efficiency programs that not only reduce demand on the grid but also reduce consumer costs; and fourth, guarantee backup generation at critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.

And if the state agencies in charge of regulating our energy sources — the Railroad Commission and Public Utility Commission — continue to refuse to do their jobs responsibly, I would be open to supporting the creation of one combined agency to assume jurisdiction over our energy portfolio to plan for Texas’ current and future energy needs, resources, production and delivery.

If you could take a different approach to one statewide issue than Abbott, what would it be and why?

It’s time to expand Medicaid in Texas to help ensure every Texan can afford to see a doctor and be well enough to live up to their full potential.

Expanding Medicaid will insure more than 1 million uninsured Texans, it will help keep rural hospitals open in this state — 27 rural hospitals have closed in the past decade —and it will lower our property tax bills by reducing the uncompensated care costs being forced onto Texans in the form of property taxes.

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