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Beto O’Rourke’s rural Texas push attracts hundreds in deep-red Fredericksburg

Beto O'Rourke, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, attracted a crowd of more than 800 people in Fredericksburg Wednesday night.
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Beto O'Rourke, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, attracted a crowd of more than 800 people in Fredericksburg Wednesday night.

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, hopes to court voters in areas that have traditionally voted for conservative politicians. On Wednesday, he brought that hope to Fredericksburg, a Hill Country town northwest of San Antonio. The event attracted more than 800 people.

Fredericksburg is the county seat of Gillespie County, which supported former President Donald Trump in 2020 with nearly 80% of its 12,000 ballots cast during the election.

O’Rourke’s visit came soon after the entire three person staff of the Gillespie County Elections Department resigned over threats made against the former elections administrator since the 2020 election.

Last Wednesday, the Fredericksburg Standard Radio-Postreported that now-former Elections Administrator Anissa Herrera and her staff had received death threats. “I was threatened, I’ve been stalked, I’ve been called out on social media,” she said. “And it’s just dangerous misinformation.”

While speaking in Fredericksburg, O’Rourke compared the alleged threats to attacks on democracy.

“If you were one of these folks who cares about our democracy, watching three election workers almost run out of town in Gillespie County for trying to tell the truth and count the votes from a lawfully decided, legitimately voted on election,” he said, “We’re gonna make sure that we get it back – free and fair elections again - in Texas no matter who you want to go for or your political party. We just want to make sure that you can safely and fairly do it.”

O’Rourke called for electronic and same day voter registration: two features Texas does not currently employ.

Hannah Thomas, a 24-year-old Fredericksburg resident, described her community as a small town that’s “not-so-conservative anymore.”

“You don’t get a whole lot of liberal Democratic politicians that come out here in campaign because it’s almost you know seems like a lost cause, and I can’t really blame him because you know we are really outnumbered, but we’re here … and he’s here so that’s the important thing,” she said.

Several supporters of Gov. Greg Abbott and Trump gathered outside a pavilion at Lady Bird Johnson Park and played sirens and loud country music with the apparent intent to disrupt the rally.

After approaching the opened side doors of the venue, O’Rourke briefly turned his attention to them.

“Lest we be annoyed or judge these Abbott people, let’s have a little bit of sympathy,” he said. “Their candidate never shows up to talk to them and listen to what they have to say in Fredericksburg so they had to come to our stuff.”

Last week, O’Rourke made national headlines for using a swear word against a heckler in Mineral Wells who laughed while O’Rourke was speaking about the deaths of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde.

An August poll by UT Tyler and theDallas Morning News reported that Abbott has a 7-point lead over O’Rourke, with 46% of those surveyed supporting Abbott and 39% supporting O’Rourke. The poll surveyed 1,384 registered voters and was conducted August 1 and 7.

The Texas Newsroom’s Sergio Martinez-Beltran contributed to this report.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules