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Beto O'Rourke stops in San Antonio one day after announcing he's running for governor

Long lines of supporters and a mariachi band accompanied the event downtown San Antonio as O'Rourke declared his ambitions if elected governor.

SAN ANTONIO — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke made his first on-the-road campaign stop in San Antonio where he criticized Gov. Greg Abbott on a slew of issues and declared his ambition to legalize marijuana in the Lone Star State. 

"Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you live in a small town or a big city, you can probably agree on it is time for us to legalize marijuana in the state of Texas," O'Rourke said. "Why are we locking up our fellow Texans for possession of a substance that is legal in most of the rest of the country right now."

The event was hosted by the Communications Workers of America Local 6143 labor union.

O’Rourke expressed his devotion to job creation and economic recovery from the pandemic.

“So many of them got sick, so many of them lost their lives in the process. We need to make sure they’re earning a living wage, that they have access to health care and that their kids can count on a world-class public-school education,” O’Rourke said.

The former congressman and presidential candidate is faced with the challenge of winning over conservative voters across the state, including many south Texas communities that have turned red in recent years.

He stressed a need to expand Medicaid that benefits rural communities and hospitals.

“Especially at a time where the federal government is paying 95 cents on the dollar for care. That’s how we attract doctors to rural, it’s how we keep rural hospitals open,” he said.

O’Rourke bashed Abbott’s handling of Texas’ failed power grid that left much of the state in the dark during the historic winter storm in February.

He also criticized Abbott on the restrictive abortion laws that have forced many women to seek help out-of-state.

O’Rourke has been vocal about his opposition to permitless carry, which strips background check requirements and extensive firearms training.

“All of them will be carrying a gun in a state that has four of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, all of which took place just in the last five years. That’s extremist, that’s dangerous and the governor is turning his back on members of law enforcement here in San Antonio,” O’Rourke said.

In a 2019 presidential debate, O’Rourke said he would take away people’s guns which he referred to as weapons of war.

“Hell yes, we are going to take away your AR-15s, your AK-47s. We are not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore," O'Rourke said during the debate. 

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales attended the event, expressing their support for O’Rourke as he kicks off his gubernatorial race.