met with business leaders elsewhere in San Antonio, gubernatorial challenger Beto O'Rourke had choice words for his Republican opponent at a campaign event near downtown.
During a speech at entertainment complex The Espee, O'Rourke blasted Abbott's "inexplicable" failure to winterize the state's power grid after last February's catastrophic blackouts. If elected, the Democratic challenger pledged, he'd abolish the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and connect the state's standalone power grid to the rest of the country.
"First, we are going to winterize and weatherize the gas supply," said O'Rourke, a former El Paso congressman and 2020 presidential candidate. "Who cares what the gas company CEOs have to say about it? We're gonna do it, and it's gonna save the lives of our fellow Texans."
The lives O'Rourke was referring to were the 16 people who died in San Antonio after Texas' electrical grid, overseen by ERCOT, failed during Winter Storm Uri, one of the state's costliest natural disasters.
Instead of providing an adequate supply of electricity, energy traders including Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) made a combined $11 billion while Texans froze to death, O'Rourke said. ETP founder Kelcy Warren, who individually profited during the disaster, recently donated $1 million to Abbott's campaign.
"These folks who robbed us when we were at our most desperate and vulnerable — that $11 billion, I'm going to make sure that we get that money back," O'Rourke said. "And we're going to prosecute anybody who was responsible for the destruction and death that we saw here in Texas."
Beyond the tough talk, O'Rourke said his plan to join Texas' grid with the rest of the nation would allow the state to sell excess power and use profits to subsidize energy costs for everyday Texans.
O'Rourke — who narrowly lost a 2018 bid to flip the U.S. Senate seat of Ted Cruz, R-Texas — also reiterated his familiar campaign pledges to legalize pot, improve public school education and cut property taxes.
O'Rourke's stop in the Alamo City was part of a statewide blitz targeting Abbott's record on handling last year's blackouts. It's unclear whether the Democrat's multi-city tour will bolster his lackluster numbers, currently averaging 39% compared to Abbotts 47.2%, according to aggregate data from Real Clear Politics.
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