Oct 3, 2022 - News

Abbott and O'Rourke square off in South Texas debate

Photo illustration of Beto O'Rourke tinted blue and Greg Abbott tinted red separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images and Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Immigration, abortion, and guns dominated a debate Friday night between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke.

Why it matters: The debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg was the only scheduled face-to-face meeting between the two ideologically opposite candidates, who laid out vastly different policy visions for Texas.

What they're saying: Accusing the governor of callousness, O'Rourke said "reproductive freedom" is at stake, and derided Abbott's border policies — including the busing of migrants out of state — as "stunts."

  • Some of the most charged moments of the night revolved the Uvalde mass shooting, with O'Rourke demanding accountability "up and down the ballot, beginning with Greg Abbott."

The other side: Abbott countered that O'Rourke had "flip-flopped" on gun rights and defunding police — and accused the former congressman of "fear mongering" about the state of the electric grid.

  • Abbott said that "purely from a legal position," he is opposed to raising the legal age for purchasing an assault-style rifle from 18 to 21.

What we're watching: With polling consistently showing Abbott has a 6%–8% advantage among likely voters, something unexpected in the next month or so might have to break O'Rourke's way for him to pull off an upset.

Go deeper: Governor's race ads dominate Texas TV airwaves

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