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Abortion, border, guns highlight Texas governor debate

(NewsNation) — Texas gubernatorial candidates Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke both released new campaign ads Thursday one day before they will debate live on NewsNation.

The two candidates have not minced words about each other during their campaigns, but their most recent ads have starkly different tones.

O’Rourke’s ad hits on expanding Medicaid in Texas, particularly increases in funding for mental health treatments. The end of the ad features a claim that Texas ranks last in the country for mental health care and O’Rourke will “finally change that by expanding Medicaid.”

Abbott’s ad is a direct shot at O’Rourke. Titled “Con Man,” the ad paints a nefarious picture of O’Rourke as a man who cannot make up his mind on issues.

Abbott has turned up the heat ahead of Friday night’s debate, which will be shown live exclusively on NewsNation.

Here are the issues central to the debate:

Immigration

Immigration has been a central issue to the Republican party ahead of November’s midterms, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has led the pack of GOP politicians campaigning on solving the crisis at the border which has seen a record number of migrant encounters.

Abbott made national headlines when he sent busloads of migrants to Democrat-run cities like Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. and has for months been butting heads with the federal government over Congress’ lack of action at the border.

O’Rourke lambasted Abbott’s busing of migrants, calling it “cruel and unkind.”

“What I propose, though, is instead of these stunts, which are so cruel and unkind not just to those migrants but those of us who live in Texas, Border Patrol agents who we put on their backs this entire immigration system that is so badly broken, what if instead we had a Texas-based guest worker program?” O’Rourke said.

Polling shows most voters agree with Abbott’s border policies, favoring arrests of migrants at the border and the deployment of the Texas National Guard.

Abortion

O’Rourke, like many other Democrats, has put abortion rights at the forefront of his campaign, capitalizing on the Supreme Court’s unpopular decision to overturn landmark abortion law Roe v. Wade, a move polls show a majority of Americans did not favor.

“Every Texan needs to know what Greg Abbott has done to the women of this state. Share our new ad, and join us in defeating him,” O’Rourke’s campaign tweeted.

O’Rourke took shots at Abbott after the incumbent governor suggested rape victims in Texas can avoid pregnancy by taking Plan B contraception pills.

Abbott fired back at O’Rourke’s jabs in a statement to the Dallas Morning News which read:

“What’s extreme are Beto O’Rourke’s abortion views that would have doctors killing babies up to the moment of birth and stopping life-saving care for babies who survive abortion,” said Abbott campaign spokesperson Renae Eze. “Governor Abbott has fought to protect the lives of both the mother and the child, providing more pre-natal and post-partum care for mothers and expanding the Alternatives to Abortion program by more than 800% since he first took office.”

Electrical reliability council of texas

Courts in Texas are still sorting through the fallout from the 2021 winter storm which crippled the state’s power grid. The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas is facing lawsuits and heavy scrutiny about its handling of the storm that left millions without power in the winter cold.

Abbott met with officials from ERCOT in early September and was assured by officials the power grid was in strong shape headed into the fall and winter, according to Nexstar affiliate KXAN.

Abbott has said reforms to ERCOT will be ongoing. Voters in Texas however will almost certainly view that claim with skepticism following the 2021 debacle.

“The State of Texas continues to monitor the reliability of our electric grid, and I thank ERCOT and PUC for their hard work to implement bipartisan reforms we passed last year and for their proactive leadership to ensure our grid is stronger than ever before,” Abbott said.

O’Rourke has said the best way to fix Texas power grid, which he says is still broke, is to connect it to the national power grid.

“This failed grid does not have to be our future,” O’Rourke said in an interview with KXXV. “Not only did we have three conservation notices this summer because the grid is still not fixed, Toyota canceled their third shift in San Antonio because they were drawing down too much power from the grid. We need to winterize and weatherize every inch of this grid.”

Guns

The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead, pushed gun rights up the ballot on the minds of Texas voters who have seen multiple mass shootings in their state during Abbott’s tenure as governor.

O’Rourke, who once said, “Hell yeah we’re gonna take your AR-15’s,” has since softened his hardline stance on guns, saying as governor he would raise the age to purchase an AR-15 to 21, establish red flag laws and universal background checks.

Abbott said it would be “unconstitutional” to raise the age to purchase an AR-15, a claim that doesn’t hold up to a fact check.

Following the shooting in Uvalde, O’Rourke made national headline when he publicly confronted Abbott during a press conference.

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke shouted at Abbott. “This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”