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Beto O'Rourke promises to be a unifying force during East Texas campaign event

The Democratic candidate for governor made the first of several East Texas stops on his statewide campaign tour Thursday in Pittsburg

PITTSBURG, Texas — As the race for governor gets tighter, East Texas became the latest battleground in the campaign.

Beto O’Rourke held the first of several local town hall events in Pittsburg Thursday afternoon. And in a political climate as hot as the summer sun in East Texas, he preached a message of unity.

“You know, in Greg Abbott’s Texas, it’s you or me,” he told the crowd during his opening remarks. “In our Texas, it’s you and me, right? It’s all of us together.”

A couple hundred people filled the historic Frederick Douglass schoolhouse to learn more about O’Rourke vision of the future. Most were already fans, including Brisa Cruz. She said she planned to be a teacher but opted not to enter the profession because of the low salary and the expectations placed on teachers beyond the lesson plan.

“I’m really looking to see what Beto has and plans for educators throughout Texas,” Cruz explained, “and see how we can improve and keep the teachers onboard, on the payroll.”

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A couple of his critics joined the crowd. They joined the long line after the event waiting for a chance to meet the candidate, but instead of smiling for a photo, they wanted to give him a piece of their minds. Outside, a few more critics came with words, signs, and air horns of protest. According to Ross Vocatouro, it was a protest of O’Rourke and politicians in general.

“Whether you're Democrat or Republican, we all need to come together, okay, and not divided and allowing the government to divide us,” he stated. “And people like O'Rourke is one of them, with his talk, his rhetoric, his change, his constant change of mind.”

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O’Rourke promised to listen to anyone with advice about how to make Texas a better place. The most recent statewide poll shows him trailing Republican Governor Greg Abbott by five percent, a much smaller margin than over the winter after O’Rourke entered the race. This trip to East Texas is part of a larger, 70-city tour that will primarily see him in the smaller, rural communities that are less likely to be receptive of his message. But that is how he hopes to sway the undecided, energize his supporters, and convince his doubters.

“It’s funny,” O’Rourke said in response to a question about his protestors, “because I don’t know the last time Greg Abbott showed up in Pittsburg and took questions from people in this community and listened to those he is supposed to serve.”

O’Rourke’s East Texas swing continues Friday with stops in Longview, Palestine, and Lufkin before another event Saturday in Hemphill.

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