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Abbott, O'Rourke rally RGV supporters during early voting weekend

David Martin Davies | Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio

Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’ Rourke campaigned across the Rio Grande Valley this weekend.

Both candidates scheduled events in several cities throughout the Valley during the only weekend for early voting. Abbott and O’Rourke have already made multiple visits to the region.

Abbott hosted a campaign party in McAllen on Sunday. He encouraged the crowd to vote, and he emphasized the importance of putting the Valley’s Latino Republicans in office.

“We are going to work not just to ensure that we have more Hispanics in the RGV voting than ever before, but we are going to elect more Hispanics in the RGV than ever before,” he said.

Abbott also spoke against defunding the police and teaching critical race theory in schools. He promised to protect jobs in the gas and oil sector and continue securing the border.

O'Rourke, who is making his first bid for governor, appeared Friday night in downtown Harlingen. His remarks included a condemnation of Abbott's troop deployments along the border and calls for higher wages for teachers, expansion of Medicaid in Texas, the legalization of marijuana and the expurgation of records of those convicted on marijuana charges.

O’Rourke specifically attacked Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s use of National Guard and Texas DPS officers to arrest migrants and charge them with trespassing. He said the governor was using the region like a prop.

“It’s absolutely using the Valley," O'Rourke said. "Sending $3 billion down here to a place that really needs resources only to discover it is for militarization, walls and troopers, is making a mockery of the needs and the opportunities that exist here.”

On Saturday, O'Rourke campaigned in Brownsville. He knocked on doors and met health care workers, veterans, and residents. O’Rourke said Republicans have gained power in the area in recent years because they engage in these kinds of interactions more often than Democrats, and Democrats need to get better at it.

He planned to visit Laredo on Sunday.

The Republican governor seeks a third term. He recently announced his run for re-election in McAllen— one of the largest cities in the Valley —which elected a Republican mayor in the last race. However, Abbott lost all four counties in the Valley in the previous gubernatorial election.

While the region historically votes Democratic, Republicans made significant gains in all four counties in the 2020 presidential election.

O'Rourke is not alone in challenging Abbott. The primary fight for the Democratic nomination includes Rich Wakeland, Inocencio Barrientez, Joy Diaz and Michael Cooper.

Abbott's primary challengers are Danny Harrison, Don Huffines, Kandy Kaye Horn, Rick Perry, Chad Prather, Paul Belew and Allan B. West.

Related: Where, when and how to vote in the March primary in San Antonio

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Gaige Davila is the Border and Immigration Reporter for Texas Public Radio.