Hoping to harness the opposition to Gov. Greg Abbott's handling of the coronavirus, several Texas Democratic strategists are launching a new political group to defeat him in 2022.
Their group, the Beat Abbott PAC, will raise money that will ultimately go to the Democratic nominee against Abbott in 2022, when he is up for a third term. Along the way, the political action committee aims to build a small-dollar donor list that can help Democrats in the next election cycle and "hold Abbott accountable for his failure on COVID," according to an announcement first shared with The Texas Tribune.
The PAC's board includes Tory Gavito, president and co-founder of Way to Win; Ginny Goldman, founder and former executive director of the Texas Organizing Project; Zack Malitz, co-founder of Real Justice PAC and statewide field director for Beto O'Rourke's 2018 U.S. Senate campaign; and Derrick Osobase, a veteran labor and political operative.
“We’re done listening to a Governor willing to let people die in order to maintain his good graces with the likes of Donald Trump and the right-wing of the Republican party,” Malitz, the PAC's treasurer, said in a statement. “People in this state deserve better than a corrupt talking head who looks out only for himself and the one-percent. It’s time to beat him.”
Democrats have criticized Abbott from the start of the pandemic — and the criticism has only intensified in recent weeks as the coronavirus situation has deteriorated in Texas. Many hospitals have become overcrowded with COVID-19 patients in recent weeks as the number of new people testing positive for the virus continues to climb, reaching 10,791 on Wednesday.
Democrats have accused Abbott of reopening the state too soon and moving too slowly to take statewide action to corral the virus, while also taking issue with the restrictions he has placed on the power of local officials.
While recent polls show Abbott's once-impressive approval ratings have taken a hit, Abbott is not on the ballot again for two years. That has left Democrats without a near-term political objective stemming from Abbott's coronavirus handling, and the Beat Abbott PAC hopes to fill that void, both with fundraising for the 2022 race and providing a voice of opposition as Abbott continues to respond to the pandemic.
The PAC has already started collecting stories from Texans directly impacted by the virus who are fed up with Abbott's approach to it. In a statement provided by the group, a pediatric ER physician in San Antonio, Mary Kirkendall, said the governor is "choosing politics over the lives of Texans."
"His lack of judgement, humility and leadership has me rattled to my core," she said. "And it is difficult to rattle an ER physician."
Abbott easily won a second term in 2018, defeating Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez by 13 percentage points while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz eked out a 3-point win in his reelection bid.
Abbott continues to be a formidable fundraiser. His campaign announced Wednesday that he raised $7.6 million during the first half of the year and has $37.7 million cash on hand.
Early speculation about potential Democratic challengers to Abbott in 2022 has centered on O'Rourke and either U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, or his twin brother, former presidential candidate Julián Castro. All three have been outspoken critics of his coronavirus response.
O'Rourke did not rule out a run in a late April interview, while Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, held open the possibility during a Texas Tribune event Wednesday.
Castro told Tribune CEO Evan Smith that he is not currently thinking about running for office again, but when Smith asked if Castro was removing himself from consideration for the 2022 governor's race, Castro flatly said no.
"I'm not aiming for anything right now, but I'll see what happens in terms of whether I feel like I could add something and I want to run for office in the future," Castro said. "I might."