guns. Abortion. . Texas’ closely watched gubernatorial race reached its final stretch Friday night in the first — and likely only — debate between a Republican incumbent. Greg Abbottand the Democratic Party candidate Beta O’Rourkeas the candidates squared off on some of the most important issues facing the state’s ballot.

For now recent polls showed O’Rourke trailing Abbott by about 7 points, this could still be the closest Texas governor’s race in years. Abbott won by more than 20 points in 2014 and by more than 13 points in 2018.

Abbott and O’Rourke have not spoken in person since the next day Uvalde school shootingwhen O’Rourke clashed with Abbott during the press conference. O’Rourke continued to bash Abbott over his response to the shooting, even holding a pre-debate press conference with the families of the shooting victims.

During the hour-long debate, Abbott was asked about his comments at that press conference the day after the Uvalde shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. In those comments, he said the shooting “could have been worse” and praised the law enforcement response. since then leaked video the footage shows officers waited in the hallway for 73 minutes to enter, and at times children could be heard screaming.

Report by a special legislative committee was established that 376 officers responded to the shooting and that the delay in confronting the gunman was the result of “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision-making.”

Beth O’Rourke, Greg Abbott

AP Photo/LM Otero, AP Photo/Eric Gay

Abbott has since said he was “misled” by “everyone in that room who gave me information about what law enforcement did.”

“That comment was based on information from law enforcement about all the kids in all the other classes that they evacuated while the shooter was on campus,” Abbott said. “However, what they didn’t tell me at the time was that there were dozens, if not more, of other law enforcement officers who were standing in the hallway for over an hour, not participating in the Columbine protocol, and went in and immediately removed that shooter, which is what they should have done. . And because they could not do it, responsibility is necessary, not only for Pete Arredondobut also for local law enforcement.”

O’Rourke, meanwhile, argued that Abbott should be prosecuted and called on him to call a special session of the state legislature to pass tougher gun laws. Abbott said the laws would be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

In 2019, O’Rourke made national headlines when, while running for president, he said in a debate “hell yeah, we’re going to take your AR-15sHe appears to have backed away from those claims, saying on Friday that he was “in favor of us making progress”.

“Those families I was just with from Uvalde want us to take action,” O’Rourke said. “This is a common language. I’ve listened to both Republicans and Democrats on this – we can agree on this: raising the age to 21, the red flag law and universal background checks this year.”

Friday’s debate was hosted by Nexstar and took place at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, a key area for both candidates. There was no audience. Given the location, it’s no surprise that immigration was the first issue in the debate. Abbott tried to keep immigration at the center of this race, how he got national headlines to transport migrants to Washington, DC, New York and Chicago. While the bus has drawn some criticism nationally — especially from Democrats — a Poll by UT/Texas Politics Project since September found that 80% of Texas Republicans and 52% of voters in the state as a whole supported the program.

Abbott defended the program Friday night and said New York City Mayor Eric Adams never reached out to his office, even though Adams said he had. O’Rourke called the bus a “political stunt”.

O’Rourke criticized Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, which saw the deployment of the National Guard to patrol the border and cost the government $4 billion. Abbott touted the program even though he said ideally he would spend “zero dollars” on Operation Lone Star and blamed President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, didn’t shy away from discussing immigration, but he tried to focus the race on abortion, gun laws and the 2021 blackout.

In 2021, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Abbott signed a law that banned abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. After the decision of the Supreme Court, the law banning abortion came into force.

Abbott said state will provide a Plan B for victims of rape or incest, which he doubled down on Friday night, saying Plan B should be “readily available” to them. But defenders said Texas Tribune earlier this month, Plan B is often unavailable, and one called it “fairytale thinking.”

O’Rourke said Friday that the election is a referendum on “reproductive freedom,” and he told Texans that “if you care, you should get out and vote.” 52% of likely voters said they would change Texas’ abortion laws to make the procedure more accessible, according to Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation/KVUE poll.

Asked if he had moved further to the right since taking office, Abbott said he had never personally supported abortion.

“Let’s look at the issues you’ve raised,” Abbott said. “And that’s because, for example, as a Catholic, my wife and I have been pro-life all our lives. So much so that it became even stronger when we adopted our daughter. The day she was born, I was the first person to hold her after she was born. And I saw with my own eyes the power that adoption can have.”

Meanwhile, O’Rourke was asked about his recent poor runs Senate in 2018 and president in 2020, and whether his call to public service or personal ambition ends. O’Rourke responded that it was an “honor” “to be able to serve others.”

Before the debate, a focus group told Nexstar that 40% supported Abbott, 27% supported O’Rourke and 33% were undecided. After the debate, 50% supported O’Rourke, 43% supported Abbott and 7% were undecided.

This is the only debate Abbott has agreed to, and O’Rourke has accepted several other invitations. On the eve of the debate, O’Rourke blamed Abbott rejection of a live audience, although Abbott’s campaign reported it Houston Chronicle that the terms of the debate were agreed in advance – without an audience.

Early voting in the state begins on October 24 September 2021, the GOP-led legislature passed an election bill that shortened early voting hours and introduced new ID requirements for mail-in voting. This last change, in particular, led to a higher rejection rate in the March primary election, with more than 24,000 votes were not counted.