Republican Greg Abbott, Democrat Beto O'Rourke secure nominations for governor in Texas primary elections

Abbott will now face Beto O'Rourke in the November general election.

Madlin Mekelburg
Austin American-Statesman
  • Republican challengers tried to push Abbott to the right on some issues.
  • With decisive victories for both candidates on Tuesday, the general election contest  begins in earnest.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won the Republican party nomination in his bid for a third term in office on Tuesday, fending off two challengers who sought to push him further to the right on key issues in the race.

Abbott will face Beto O'Rourke in the November general election, after the El Paso Democrat cruised to victory in the Democratic primary contest with more than 90% of the vote, according to early results.

The Associated Press called both races for the candidates based on initial results from early voting statewide.

“Tonight, Republicans sent a message,” Abbott said from a campaign event in Corpus Christi. “They want to keep Texas the land of opportunity and prosperity for absolutely everybody, the prosperity that we have delivered over the past eight years.”

Abbott faced seven challengers in his reelection bid: Chad Prather, Don Huffines, Allen West, Danny Harrison, Kandy Kaye Horn, Paul Belew and Rick Perry (not the former Texas governor).

Huffines, a former state senator from Dallas, and West, former chairman of the Texas GOP, challenged Abbott's conservative credentials on the campaign trail, looking to push him further to the right on issues related to the pandemic, border security and election laws.

"Though I will not be contesting the outcome of this election, I will not be going away," Huffines said in a statement conceding victory on Tuesday. "I will always fight to defend the God-given rights and liberties of Texans."

Democrat Beto O'Rourke, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott

O'Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who rose to national prominence in his close defeat to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018, declared victory in Tuesday's primary at an event in Fort Worth.

"It looks like, from the early returns, I will be your nominee for governor for the state of Texas," he said. "I'm ready to do this with you."

O'Rourke was facing Michael Cooper, Joy Diaz, Inocencio (Inno) Barrientez and Rich Wakeland in the Democratic primary.

More:Early voting turnout results low across Central Texas for 2022 primary election

With decisive victories for both candidates on Tuesday, the general election contest  begins in earnest.

Polls conducted ahead of Tuesday's primary showed Abbott leading O'Rourke by 10 percentage points in a hypothetical match-up, but more than six months remain before voters ultimately will cast their ballots in the race.

Both are prolific fundraisers who have captured significant support from their respective parties. Fundraising figures from both campaigns released Wednesday show O’Rourke and Abbott raising money at a similar pace, but Abbott has amassed a campaign war chest that gives him a significant advantage in the race.

More:New poll shows Gov. Greg Abbott leading Beto O'Rourke in race for governor

Abbott received $3.8 million in donations from Jan. 1 through Feb. 19 and O’Rourke raised $3 million over the same period. But Abbott ended the fundraising period with $49.8 million on hand to O’Rourke’s $6.8 million.

On the campaign trail, Abbott has worked to paint O’Rourke as “too liberal for Texas,” highlighting his past policy positions on guns, the border and the environment.

“Texas faces a very profound question this election: do we take a left turn that leads to more government and less freedom; a path that would destroy jobs, open our borders and endanger our communities?” Abbott said at Tuesday’s event. “Or do we maintain the course that has secured greater freedom, more jobs and safer communities? I’m running for reelection to keep Texas on the right course.”

O’Rourke argues that Abbott lost the trust of Texans due to his response to the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s deadly winter freeze that left millions without electricity for days at a time.

"We work hard, and we do good work, and we're good to one another," he said from his campaign event in Fort Worth. "That's not reflected in those who hold power and positions of public trust in this state right now."

Wichita Falls Times-Record-News staff writer Trish Choate contributed to this report.