Beto O’Rourke’s fate hinges on Black voter turnout

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for Texas Governor, is trailing Republican incumbent Greg Abbott and high Black voter turnout could provide his only pathway to victory.

As reported by The Houston Chronicle, the O’Rourke campaign recognizes the importance Black voters will play in the race and has been making overtures to influential Black community leaders, especially in Harris County.

One of the campaign’s recent calls was to Fred Woods, who represents Houston’s Super Neighborhood 47 in East Little York/Homestead. Woods was blunt with O’Rourke, telling him that he needed to do more to show he’s listening to minority communities.

“We’ve never had a Governor; we’ve never had a gubernatorial candidate come to our area and so that tells me what they think about us when they don’t come and listen to us,” he said.

O’Rourke has since made visits to Tidwell Park and a half-dozen predominantly Black churches. The latter half of his Tidwell Park event, notably, featured the candidate doing more listening than talking.

When O’Rourke ran for U.S. Senate four years ago, his engagement with the Black community led to a sharp rise in turnout in the area — from 31% to 41% — and helped him close the gap between him and GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Though O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, the high Black turnout his campaign helped cultivate was a boon to many down-ballot Democratic candidates in Harris County.

Home to Houston, Harris County is the most populous county in the Lone Star State. According to voter records compiled by L2 voter data, more than 2.4 million registered voters live within the county’s borders, including approximately 370,000 Black voters — that equates to about a quarter of Black voters statewide.

According to a recent Marist poll of the Texas Governor race, Abbott is leading O’Rourke by four points, 49%-45%. Abbott’s lead doubles when considering only those who told the pollster they would “definitely vote.”

However, the same poll showed O’Rourke with a 78%-13% lead among Black voters, meaning high turnout in that bloc could once again help him close the gap in the traditionally GOP state.

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