North Texas Daily

Beto O’Rourke visits Denton during campaign drive

Beto O’Rourke visits Denton during campaign drive

Beto O’Rourke visits Denton during campaign drive
February 07
00:01 2022

Attendees chanted and cheered as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke hopped onto the small concrete stage in Quakertown Park on Sunday.

The event was one of O’Rourke’s planned stops along his 12-day “Keeping the Lights On” drive across Texas, a campaign aimed at spreading information about his future plans as the next potential governor.

For some attendees, coming to O’Rourke’s event meant a long drive for them as well. Fort Worth residents 33-year-old Taylor Hulitt and her mother, 64-year-old Rebecca Boston, made the 45-minute road trip together on Sunday after receiving notifications for the event.

“We were signed up for the text messages and emails and we saw this,” Hulitt said. “It was the closest gathering that was coming up soon, so we just drove up here today.”

Both Hulitt and Boston were enthusiastic about the idea of future changes in Texas government.

“What we have now is not working,” Boston said. “We have to do something. We need to try something different.”

Keeping with the theme of the drive, a majority of O’Rourke’s speech was focused on how he would prevent future blackouts caused by storms similar to Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. The storm knocked the services of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas offline state-wide and led to the deaths of hundreds of Texas residents.

“Your party affiliation does not matter to me,” O’Rourke said. “All that matters is that we’re focused on getting this fixed.”

O’Rourke explained his main campaign ideas included “winterizing” the gas supply, connecting ERCOT to the country’s power grid, reducing state utility bill rates, suing companies that raise energy prices in emergencies and guaranteeing law enforcement will enforce natural gas trading.

“We are a nation of laws and we believe in the rule of law,” O’Rourke said.

Memories of the 2021 freeze and blackouts were likely fresh in the minds of most attendees listening to O’Rourke, especially after snow and freezing temperatures a few days earlier left ice that continued to thaw on the ground throughout the event.

“Imagine if we never have to worry about the electricity grid in the state of Texas again,” O’Rourke said.

During O’Rourke’s speech, he included stories from local North Texas residents who suffered when the power grid shut down in 2021 – a teacher from Lewisville whose frozen pipes burst, flooding her kitchen, and a 23-year-old who had his legs amputated due to frostbite. When placing blame, O’Rourke encouraged attendees to look at current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“This was no act of God or Mother Nature,” O’Rourke said. “This was the failing of the person in the highest position of power and trust in this state.”

Not all of the attendees at the park came out in support of O’Rourke. A small group of protestors stood just outside the main cluster of O’Rourke’s supporters, some carrying “Let’s Go Brandon” or American flags, megaphones and handmade signs.

For event volunteers, such as political science freshman Ryan Dempsey, the protestors’ arrival did not come as a shock.

“It’s not too surprising, given that we’re in Texas,” Dempsey said. “If they stick to themselves and don’t cause anyone harm, that’s okay, and that’s their right to stand there and counter-protest.”

While a few protestors did walk around the main group of O’Rourke supporters during and after his speech, the majority kept their distance. Other attendees had been long-term supporters of O’Rourke throughout his campaigns, such as Antonella Longo, a university research scientist and event volunteer.

“I started volunteering for the Beto campaign in 2018 when he was running for [the] Senate,” Longo said. “Since then, I’ve been involved in whatever he’s been involved in. I think he can bring the change we need in Texas and move the state towards the future.”

The future that O’Rourke’s campaign and Longo hope for could be dependent on the votes of a younger demographic.

“We saw a huge increase in young voter turnout in 2018, when I last ran on the ballot in Texas,” O’Rourke said. “We need to see that same kind of turnout and leadership this time if we’re going to make it happen.”

Featured Image: Beto O’Rourke talks to a crowd in Quakertown Park on Feb. 6, 2022. Photo by Sonia Huerta

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Alex Reece

Alex Reece

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