How’s Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s campaign for governor of Texas going? On the one hand, a recent poll of registered voters showed the Democrat only trailing incumbent Greg Abbott by two points, which is the best poll that O’Rourke has seen since he entered the race.
On the other hand, that is only one poll, and its an outlier compared to most of the other surveys we’ve seen in recent months. And perhaps more importantly, O’Rourke’s campaign is meeting with increased resistance and outright hostility in conservative parts of the state.
… this past weekend, in a small community an hour north of San Antonio, the O’Rourke campaign, hoping to hold a town hall, tried and failed to secure the use of four different event venues and was effectively run out of town.
This debacle took place in Comal County, the southernmost of the two counties in the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin, which ranks as one of the most Republican areas of the state. But there’s still reason for Democrats to think they can do better here. In 2016, Trump won Comal by fifty points; in 2020, he won by a little more than forty. The county’s major population center, New Braunfels, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation.
When O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign set out to hold a town hall in Comal County, it aimed not for New Braunfels but for Canyon Lake, population around 30,000. That community, remote and deeply conservative, was the kind O’Rourke had made a special effort to visit in 2018. This time, however, news that O’Rourke would be coming set off agitation in Canyon Lake, especially on social media.
As Texas Monthly details, O’Rourke first tried to hold his town hall at a local restaurant in Canyon Lake, which demurred after getting pushback from many patrons. Next he reached out to a local public school and a community center, only to be turned away as well.
Eventually O’Rourke ended up holding his event on another piece of private property, where a couple of hundred people showed up to hear from the Democrat, including one man who was upset by O’Rourke’s troubles in finding a place willing to host him.
During the question-and-answer period following O’Rourke’s address, a man told the candidate that he “just wanted to apologize to your campaign for the fiasco it took to get you here.” The man said the experience was familiar. “This happens to all of us as Democrats living in this county.” He urged his fellow party members to assert their presence and to say forcefully that “we live here and we have a different point of view than other people do.”
I’ve got news for that Texas Democrat; stuff like this doesn’t just happen to lefties. A few years ago Democrats and gun control activists were protesting outside of businesses that hosted Friends of NRA dinners, with at least one restaurant pulling out of hosting a dinner despite a contract with the local Friends group.
I don’t recall O’Rourke saying anything about those cancellations and protests at the time, but if he had weighed in I’m sure he would have been all in favor. I have a hard time picturing the guy who told us he was coming for our AR-15s defending Friends of NRA dinners from being cancelled by his fellow progressives, but maybe that’s just me.
Besides, at the end of the day O’Rourke was still able to speak to the handful of supporters who turned out in Comal County, even if he had to work a little harder to find someone willing to host him. If he really wants to experience what it’s like to be shut out of a private space he should try to find a gun range or firearms retailer in Texas willing to host a campaign stop.