Beto O'Rourke said Monday that he is running for governor of Texas, giving Democrats a well-known challenger to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
In an announcement video posted to Twitter, O'Rourke said he was motivated to run because Texas had been "abandoned by those who were elected to serve and look out for them" during the February winter storm, when the electricity grid failed and left millions without heat and electricity. That crisis was a "symptom" of a greater issue, he said.
"Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving and paying attention to and trusting the people of Texas. They’re not focused on the things that we really want them to do, like making sure we have a functioning electricity grid or that we’re creating the best jobs in America right here in Texas," he said in a video.
Instead, he argued, the Republicans in charge have focused on divisive and "extremist policies around abortion or permit-less carry."
The former congressman from El Paso lost a close race against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 before launching an unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Texas Monthly was first to report O'Rourke's plans.
O'Rourke has maintained a high profile in the state, speaking out against the Republican-led voting restrictions that Abbott signed into law in September and raising funds for the Texas Democrats who fled to try and block the legislation.
Abbott has millions banked for his re-election campaign, a high approval rating among Republicans and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Thanks to that new voting law, as well as a restrictive and unusually-structured abortion law that is the subject of a case before the Supreme Court, Texas has become an epicenter of the national conservative causes that rally the GOP base.
There is some tension on Abbott's right flank, however. Last summer, Abbott issued a mask mandate and business restrictions as the state struggled with Covid-19 surges. Those moves have led to a handful of long-shot challengers on the right, including former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West.
This year, as infections have slowed, Abbott has sought to ban vaccine and mask mandates, going as far as to fight in court to stop schools from requiring face masks. A federal judge recently ruled that a ban on mask mandates in schools violates federal law, prohibiting the state from enforcing it.