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REPLAY: Abbott, O’Rourke face off in sole Texas gubernatorial debate

The Democratic challenger and the Republican incumbent face off on Friday at 7 p.m.
KUT
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The Democratic challenger and the Republican incumbent face off on Friday at 7 p.m.

Texas voters got their first and only chance to watch the candidates for Texas governor go head-to-head as incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and his challenger, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, debated live from the Rio Grande Valley on Friday.

The debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was hosted by NEXSTAR media group. It’s the only debate both camps have agreed to, despite the O’Rourke campaign asking for more face-to-face contests in a matchup that’s garnered the most attention of all the statewide races on the ballot in November.

The debate was hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno, and the panel of journalists asking questions include Sally Hernandez of KXAN, Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News, and Steve Spriester of KSAT San Antonio, KXAN reported.

You can watch a replay of the debate, courtesy of KXAN, below:

O’Rourke, a former City Council member and congressman from El Paso, is looking to be the first Democrat elected to a statewide office in Texas since the mid-1990s. Abbott was first elected governor in 2014 and is seeking his third term. He was previously the state’s attorney general.

Recent polling indicates O’Rourke is still the underdog. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that 53% of likely voters plan to cast their ballot for the incumbent while 46% said they support O’Rourke. 

Abbott has made border security a main theme of his campaign and has painted O’Rourke as a standard bearer of what Republicans call President Joe Biden’s “open-border” policies. O’Rourke’s camp has hit Abbott on gun control, an issue once again thrust into the headlines after another Texas mass shooting: In May, a gunman killed 19 children and two schoolteachers at a Uvalde elementary school. Access to abortion is another key issue that separates the candidates.

Both campaigns have events planned around Friday's debate. O’Rourke will meet families from Uvalde who have been pressuring Abbott to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to address gun reform, specifically raising the age to buy an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21. That event will be held in Edinburg at 1 pm Friday. Abbott will meet with supporters at a watch party in McAllen immediately after the debate. The next day, he’ll speak at the Texans for Greg Abbott and Texas Victory Weekend breakfast in Harlingen.

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24, and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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Julián Aguilar