Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.
Why it matters: O’Rourke’s entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.
- But he would be running in a complicated political environment. Immigration is surging at the southern border and Democrats at the national level are bracing for a brutal midterm election and potentially losing the House of Representatives in 2022.
- A new poll for the Dallas Morning News shows that O’Rourke has narrowed the gap with Abbott in a hypothetical matchup, down, 37%-42%. In July, O’Rourke faced a 12-point deficit, 33%-45%.
- Over the summer, Abbot has seen his approval rating sink to 41%, with 50% disapproving, in a separate poll.
Driving the news: O’Rourke has been calling political allies to solicit their advice, leaving them with the impression that he’s made his decision to run in the country’s second-largest state.
- “No decision has been made,” said David Wysong, O’Rourke’s former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser. “He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state.”
The big picture: In addition to deep cultural differences on how to respond to COVID-19, many of the contentious issues dividing the country seem to be bigger in Texas, with raging debates on abortion rights and border security flaring across the state.
- Abbott championed a law, which the Supreme Court declined to strike down, to criminalize abortions six weeks after conception, enraging progressive activists and potentially suburban women.
- He has also stoked cultural divides on COVID-19 and used executive action to try and prevent local jurisdictions from imposing mandates for masks or vaccines.
- On the border, Abbott has called for six points of entry in Texas to be closed and has blamed the Biden administration for the growing humanitarian crisis in Del Rio, where thousands of migrants are seeking shelter underneath a bridge.
What they are saying: “We hope that he’s going to run,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. “We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott, because he’s vulnerable.”
- “His prohibition against mask and vaccination mandates have not gone over well with Texans,” Hinojosa said. “And with the abortion law, Republicans have raised the anger level of Texas women higher than anyone has ever seen before.”
By the numbers: While Democrats insisted that 2020 could be the year that Texas might turn blue and vote for its first Democrat for president since 1976, President Trump won that state with 52%, the same as his 2016 margin.
- Trump captured 1.2 million more votes in 2020, for a total of 5.8 million.
- In 2018, O’Rourke lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, 51% to 48%, by a margin of some 215,000 votes.
More than half of Bay Area residents plan to leave permanently
More than half of the residents living in the San Francisco Bay Area say they are considering moving out of the area permanently, according to a poll from Joint Venture Silicon Valley released Monday.
The survey of voters in five Bay Area Counties found that 56 percent of respondents said they were likely to leave the region within “the next few years,” a higher percentage than in any of the think tank’s previous polling.
A separate 44 percent said they were unlikely to leave, with 14 percent of these people saying they want to move but could not.
Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, told The San Francisco Chronicle that the issue comes down to the costs of housing.
“It’s housing, stupid,” Hancock told the newspaper. “That is driving almost all of the results we see in this poll.”
Among those who were likely to leave, 84 percent cited the cost of living as a major reason, 77 percent specifically cited high housing costs and 62 percent cited the quality of life.
Walgreens Closing 5 San Fran Stores, Citing ‘Organized Retail Crime’
Walgreens will close five more San Francisco stores, a company spokesperson confirmed Tuesday, citing ongoing organized retail crime as the reason.
The closures are as follows:
- 2550 Ocean Ave. will close on Nov. 8 and will transfer prescription files to 1630 Ocean Ave.
- 4645 Mission St. will close on Nov. 11 and will transfer prescription files to 965 Geneva St.
- 745 Clement St. will close on Nov. 15 and will transfer prescription files to 3601 California St.
- 300 Gough St. will close on Nov. 15 and will transfer prescriptions to 2145 Market St.
- 3400 Cesar Chavez St. will close on Nov. 17 and will transfer prescriptions to 2690 Mission St.
“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” said Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”
The drugstore chain hopes to relocate employees from closing stores to other nearby locations.
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Ahsha Safai of District 11 said he was “devastated” by the loss of the store on Mission Street on Twitter, writing “I am completely devastated by this news – this Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades. This closure will significantly impact this community.”
Safai told SFGATE that though the store on Mission Street had added an off-duty police officer as store security in recent months, it was “too little, too late for this store.” He said he has been in touch with Walgreens and that the shoplifting was having an impact on the company’s bottom line, as well as impacting the safety of its employees and customers. “This is a sad day for San Francisco,” Safai said. “We can’t continue to let these anchor institutions close that so many people rely on.”
Walgreens closed a location at 790 Van Ness Ave. in October 2020 after an increase in crime, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, citing a loss of up to $1,000 in stolen merchandise every day. (SFGATE and The San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another.) The rampant shoplifting was often brazen and carried out in broad daylight — that month Inside Edition was filming a segment about the increase in crime in the drugstore when they caught a man jumping over the front counter to do that very thing.
California law dictates that theft of less than $950 in goods is penalized as a nonviolent misdemeanor.
New York must allow religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandate, judge rules
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that New York state cannot impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on healthcare workers without allowing their employers to consider religious exemption requests.
U.S. District Judge David Hurd in Albany, New York, ruled that the state’s workplace vaccination requirement conflicted with healthcare workers’ federally protected right to seek religious accommodations from their employers.
The ruling provides a test case as vaccine mandate opponents gear up to fight plans by President Joe Biden’s administration to extend COVID-19 inoculation requirements to tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans.
Vaccines have become highly politicized in the United States, where only 66% of Americans are vaccinated, well short of the initial goals of the Biden administration.
Seventeen healthcare workers opposed to the mandate sued, saying the requirement violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution and a federal civil rights law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.
Hurd agreed, saying the state’s order “clearly” conflicted with their right to seek religious accommodations.
“The court rightly recognized that yesterday’s ‘front line heroes’ in dealing with COVID cannot suddenly be treated as disease-carrying villains and kicked to the curb by the command of a state health bureaucracy,” said Christopher Ferrara, a lawyer for the workers at the conservative Thomas More Society.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, vowed in a statement to fight the decision, saying her “responsibility as governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that.”
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