AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s lead over challenger Beto O’Rourke has significantly decreased, according to a new Quinnipiac Unversity poll released Wednesday.
The poll results showed that 48% of Texas voters supported Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and 43% supported Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.
In Quinnipiac’s December poll of the race, Abbott was up 15 percentage points with 52% compared to O’Rourke at 37%.
Quinnipiac polled 1,257 Texas registered voters taken between June 9 and June 13. It comes as the first major poll taken following the Uvalde school shooting on May 24, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.
The elementary school shooting was top of mind for voters, who ranked gun policy as the third most urgent issue facing Texans, behind the economy and the Texas-Mexico border as number one.
In a Thursday interview with Nexstar, O’Rourke said that tracks with what he has been hearing on the campaign trail from voters.
“There are people all over this state — Republicans who’ve approached me, gun owners who’ve approached me and said, ‘hey Beto, I’m with you. We’ve got to do something.'” he said. “We can protect the Second Amendment while doing a far better job of protecting the lives of the people in our community.”
O’Rourke has joined the calls of other state Democrats criticizing the governor for not calling lawmakers back for a special legislative session.
“I would have called a special session literally the day after that shooting in Uvalde,” he said. “This current governor has called special sessions to go after transgender kids, to make it harder to vote in the state of Texas to tell teachers in our public schools what version of history they’re allowed to teach. Why in the world won’t [he] call a special session to save the lives of our kids before they return to school?”
Abbott has resisted calls for a special session. He and other Republicans have cited the fact that multiple state and federal investigations are still ongoing, saying they do not want to create policy before having all the facts.
In the weeks following the shooting at Robb Elementary School, the governor has directed numerous state agencies to check existing protocols, sent state resources to Uvalde for support. Speaker of the House Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, have also developed proposals for expanding upon mental health and school safety resources.
On school safety, 61% of Texas parents polled said they are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about a school shooting happening at their child’s school.
O’Rourke said if he were governor, he would focus efforts on expanding universal background checks, creating Red Flag and safe gun storage laws and expanding Medicaid to fully fund mental health care in Texas communities.
“The opportunity for us is to find out how much we can get done that’s going to both protect the Second Amendment and protect the lives of our kids,” he said. “The lives of our kids are on the ballot this November.”
Abbott’s campaign has continuously criticized O’Rourke’s stances on gun restrictions, long before the mass shooting in Uvalde.
The former El Paso congressman became known on the 2020 presidential campaign trail for his “Hell yes” promise to ban assault weapons. Since announcing his bid for governor, he has been less vocal on that policy but renewed his calls for such a ban after the tragedy in Uvalde. Abbott’s campaign has accused O’Rourke for “flip-flopping” on policy standpoints.