Editor’s note: The attached video includes questions and answers from Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s campaign rally in Snyder, Texas on July 21, 2022. Lulls have been cut out.


Transcript:

Increased art funding in rural areas

Question:
“I represent the Scurry County Museum, and my question for you is: It is really hard to get funding in rural areas for our arts and cultural organizations. How would you, and would you, support an increase in funding for rural areas, such as Snyder?”

O’Rourke:
“Absolutely. Let me tell you a story that I heard in Midland. A couple of years back, there was an arts teacher there who teaches in the Midland School District who also has a state grant that was targeted to be cut, that allows her to go to rural communities where they cannot afford to have an arts teacher on staff.

“So she goes from county to county, school district to school district to make sure that those kids have the same opportunities as the kids going to school in Midland. But that program was going away.

“Not only do I want to fully fund that, I’d love to have permanent arts teachers in every single one of these communities. I would argue that’s a pretty important part of your education. Reading, writing, arithmetic; all important and foundational. But the arts open up windows to worlds that we may never have imagined otherwise.

“By that same token, investing in our museums and great libraries like this one, it’s not just a good thing to do. It doesn’t just improve our quality of life, I would argue it improves our economic competitiveness when we’re trying to make sure that we have kids and young people who can compete against talent anywhere else on the planet. So you’ve got my commitment on that. Looking forward to partnering with you… I know that we have an open invitation to do a tour, and I want to make sure that we take you up on that, too. Thank you for being here.”


Lifting liberal Christianity

Question:
“Born and raised here, and I’m a Democrat because of the Sunday school lessons I was taught at First Baptist Church just a little bit way from here.

“Do you have a strategy for talking to communities of faith all over Texas and reminding them, or maybe even informing them, that some of us are liberal Democrats because of the Bible, because of Jesus. Even our stances being pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ, pro-immigrant…. That comes from deep within our faith. But it seems like there’s a louder voice somewhere else.

“I’m wondering if maybe you could be a voice that lifts liberal Christianity up a little bit more, so that this isn’t a holy war we’re in, but just a family discussion between the family of God.”

O’Rourke:
“Thank you so much for being here, for asking this really thoughtful question. I’m with you.

“I don’t think any party, any person, any Texan, should concede anything that is fundamental to who we are and to our success. Sometimes people say, well, ‘this flag or that flag has been appropriated by this or that side.’ Some people say that the religion that you are a part of, and I’m a part of, has been appropriated by one side against the other. That’s crazy.

“If America is about anything, it’s about all of us. ‘E pluribus unum: Out of many, one.’ That’s the genius of this country, right? Who else on the planet has been able to pull off what we’re doing?

“I came from Ireland. Your family may have come from another part of Europe. We have folks who are brought here involuntarily from Africa, folks who are indigenous to this land before any European settlers arrived. And yet, más o menos, more or less, were able to make this work through this beautiful democracy.

“And that’s the same lesson that I take from my faith tradition, as a catholic, that God is all about, ultimately, love and how we treat one another.

“At the town hall meeting that we had last night, somebody stepped up, and they said, ‘hey, Bethel, I just want to remind you of this golden rule that we should treat one another as we would wish to be treated right now.’ I’m doing my best to do that. Never perfectly. Probably all of us struggle with that in our lives. But when I talk about Medicaid, that sounds like this official bureaucratic government program.

“It’s making sure that that person who may have lost their job, maybe through no fault of their own, is able to see a doctor and continue their medication, so that they can literally live. That’s kindness. And that is completely in keeping with the tradition that I was raised in, as well. But it also means having some humility. That’s why I’m always so happy to hear from people who disagree with me, who may see the world a little bit differently, come to a different conclusion on something that I deeply care about. They’re every bit as human, every bit as important, every bit as Texan, every bit as American as I am, as well. And that’s something that I take from my teaching and understanding of the life of Christ, things that we wish to emulate. The better people that we want to be, and we tell our kids that they should aspire to be as well.

“They’re looking at us right now and counting on us for the things that we do or finding failed to do at this defining moment of truth. And so, yes, let’s find a way to come together again. And it does not mean that everybody has to vote for the same person. It does not mean that everybody has to agree. It just means… Is that we have to decide that we are going to move forward and we’re going to do it together. And no one is any less of a human being based on any difference between us.

“There are too many people in power right now whose only goal seems to be to make us afraid of each other, because of where you’re from or how you love or the party that you voted for, or the cable channel that you tune into. People who want us to be scared or to hate, that’s not who we are. We are are big people destined to do big and great things. And the only way that happens is when we come together and respect one another.

“And so that’s what I take out of the tradition that you and I share, and I think many others here, share as well. But I’d love to stay in touch with you and find out how we continue to connect going forward.”


Sustainable energy and ERCOT

Question:
“I believe that we’re going to need an integrated approach for all energy sources without demonizing one or the other. But things have to make sense. I recently came across one of the wind turbine projects that was put in 2007, here in Scurry County. I think it crosses over into Fisher County.

“Also, they’re going to be retooling the project, but they can’t increase the capacity because the regulatory agency, or assume ERCOT won’t approve added megawatts. So they’re going to be reusing the pads, the turbines… But instead of doubling the capacity because the regulatory agency won’t allow it, they’re just going to go on with the same amount, which it seems like that would be one of the most economical ways, is retooling or what they call repowering older projects as they come to be offline to double the capacity.”

O’Rourke:
“Maybe ERCOT thinks they have too many megawatts already. They don’t need anymore, right? In the state that is the energy capital of the world, that couldn’t keep the power on last February where hundreds of our fellow Texans literally died of hypothermia of carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to stay warm in their garages. People who burned up because they lit fires in their homes and apartments trying to stay warm.

“We literally could not keep the lights on, the heat running, the water flowing because our pipes froze. We need more generating capacity. We need more energy sources. We need more gas. That’s true. And we need more oil.

“At this moment, at a time where Russia has invaded Ukraine, we’re cutting off 10% of our resources from Russia, which is a good thing. And Europe needs a partner right now, or they’re going to have to go back to Russia. I would love for that oil and gas resource to come right here from the State of Texas, as well as the jobs that come with it. But I also want to make sure that we’re leading the next generation of energy and that’s wind and that’s solar, that’s geothermal, that is hydrogen.

“Not only are those among the best paying jobs that will be created over the next 50 years, and we want them right here in Texas, it allows us to contribute our part to confronting the challenge of climate change before it is too late.

“I started this conversation talking about those generations yet to come who are counting on us right now. They see the problems that we have. The world, literally on fire right now, record droughts in this state, and they want to know what we did about it. So creating these high-paying jobs, making sure that we have more megawatts on the grid so that we never have to worry about the lights coming on; these are the right things to do.

“In addition, what if, by making these investments, we could lower your utility bills as a result? In this community, as in every community in Texas, the ratepayer on average is paying $45 more per month, every single month, on your utility bills after that grid failure last February. I want to make sure that we return that money to you that was stolen from you by the energy traders, the pipeline CEOs, the folks who took $11 billion of our wealth over five days last February… Return that to the ratepayer, invest in these technologies, and watch our communities flourish.

“When we were in Roscoe and we went to Roscoe High School, home of the Plowboys and the Plowgirls, we were amazed to see that almost every child in that senior high school classroom was going to graduate. Not just with a high school diploma, but with an associate degree. Two years of college under their belt, and some of them would graduate with a remote FAA pilot’s license.

“Because they have so many wind turbines in Roscoe, they need people to fly the drones to do the remote inspections. Those wind turbines have deepened the property tax base in that community, allowing the district to invest in their young people. This is a virtuous cycle that we want turning here in the state of Texas. Thank you for asking the question. I appreciate it.”


Increasing Medicaid and elder care funding

Question:
I’ve been a nurse for 23 years and I’m on the frontline right now working at the bedside. For a time, I was here in the community as the DO and in our local nursing home during the COVID pandemic. We lost 20 of our senior citizens to that pandemic, and we spent most of that time without the proper funding, PPE equipment, all of the things we needed to take care of the people we deeply loved…

“So I have a special place in my heart for the Medicaid expansion and I wanted to know if you could speak to how increasing our Medicaid funding would help, especially prop up elder care, because we haven’t had a Medicaid increase for elder care in this state for a very, very long time. So could the Medicaid expansion dollars be used for that purpose?”

O’Rourke:
“Thank you for being here and thank you for sharing some of your story, and for what you do.

“My sister is also a nurse in El Paso and, at the start of that pandemic, was an ER nurse… Hearing her talk about what it was like to treat people without the right protective equipment for herself, not knowing the rules of the road as we were all trying to figure that out, and being her brother – really, deeply worrying about her.

“Ultimately, El Paso became the deadliest city in the country for COVID deaths. We set up not one, but 10 mobile morgues in our community.

“Part of the problem is we were fighting our governor, who is trying to restrict what we can do – in terms of public health orders – to save lives.

“I mentioned Veterans right at the top: One of my favorite veterans that I’ve ever known, a guy who changed my life for the better. His name was Javier Diaz, 17 years old during the Korean war… Asked his mom to sign his enlistment paper so he could join the Marines and go out there and fight in some of the toughest, coldest battles that any us servicemember has ever been a part of. We lost him to COVID. He died alone in a hospital room. His wife and his family could not come in there and visit him. It was before the vaccine, and he had no help from the highest people in the positions of power.

“So, to your question, yes. Absolutely, lets expand Medicaid. lets also support local healthcare workers. We have a 20,000 nurse shortage in the State of Texas right now.

“Here’s my pledge and my plan as your governor: If you want to join the nursing profession, if you are already currently a nurse and have student loan debt; I want to make sure that we clear that out of the way so that you can focus on your patients and helping them to get better. So that we reduce the nurse-to-patient ratio, and that we boost the reimbursement for elder care and those home attendants… And including home attendant nurses, who are literally helping so many of our disabled Texans – Texans with disabilities – and elder Texans live independently in their own homes.

“We do not lack the wealth or the resources. Ninth largest economy, $2 trillion GDP in Texas. It’ss just so far the political will to do the right thing. So, we all together, want to do the right thing.”


Medicaid, insurance

Question:
“I’m a nurse at a clinic and I think expansion of the Medicaid would be awesome, and really would help us locally. But our problem is when you refer out, because a lot of our patients might have the Obamacare insurance. We cant find doctors to see them…

“Would expansion on the Medicaid – is the reimbursements for the doctors gonna be good? Are they gonna take it? Because sometimes, if you have insurance, its only worth the paper you printed on, and that’s not really gonna help the people of Texas.”

O’Rourke:
“I’m so glad you asked this. The short answer to your question’s ‘no.’

“Expanding Medicaid is- can be insufficient to the challenge you just described. Like your community, in El Paso, a medical provider can provide the same service as the medical provider in Houston and will be reimbursed at a lower rate. As though it’s somehow less valuable in El Paso than it is in Houston, or Dallas, or Austin, or San Antonio or somewhere else. Same thing in Snyder, same thing throughout much of rural Texas.

“The further we are away from Austin, it seems the less likely we are to get the resources that we need. So in addition to expanding Medicaid, we gotta reform that program, as well as how we handle Medicare, and even how we do other reimbursements for medical care in the State of Texas in underserved, and especially, rural communities.

“It’s the only way we’re going to attract and retain the nurses, the PAs, the physicians and the other providers that we need right now. I don’t blame people who say, ‘you know what, I’ve got this medical degree, or I took on a ton of debt to become a nurse and I cant pay it back or afford to do that by taking Medicade or Medicare here in Snyder. I’m gonna move somewhere else or I’m only gonna take private payers.’

“We’ve got to make sure that if you have that Medicaid, if we go through the trouble of expanding it, if we spend as a nation – $10 billion more in Texas every single year, that folks can use it, and its worth more than the paper than it is printed on.

“That’s gonna require us investing more in these programs, as well. its not enough just to do Medicaid, we also gotta reform these programs and then invest more in what we’re doing in mental health care, in primary healthcare, in women’s health care at a time when women are under attack in this state. If we do all of that, y’know, not only have we… been able to fulfill the moral imperative – the things we hear about in church or synagogue, or mosque, however we connect with the power that is greater than us. But we’re also satisfying our own self interests in being a stronger, better, more economically competitive state.

“Imagine the number of people right now who are not well enough or healthy enough to finish school, or go to a job or start a business that creates more jobs. Investing in healthcare is an investment in our economy. I’m gonna make sure that we do that, and I look forward to partnering with you.”


2nd amendment and gun rights

Question:
“I’m one of them that helped defend this country and I love freedom, and you’re trying to take my freedom away and give it to somebody that has the authority to turn me in without cause under your red flag… And with no defense, that I hear they can enter your [sic] premisis, retrieve your guns and you will not get them back.

“When the guy talked about you taking guns, does the second amendment say something about ‘shall not be infringed?’ Does that… count anything? I now look over the last 18 months, do you see the condition we’re in? Can you name some people that have had the opportunity to change this, and have not?

“My priorities are God, family and country.”

O’Rourke:
“Thank you, mine as well… And thank you for being here, thank you for serving our country. Thank you for asking a question.

“You’re absolutely right about the second amendment – it includes that phrase. It also includes the phrase: ‘A well-regulated militia.’

“We have decided, as Americans, that we’re gonna draw a line. That’s why you can parade around with your AR-15s, but you can’t do it with a mobile rocket launcher or a bazooka. We’ve just decided that’s a line. It’s why you used to be able to have a machine gun in Snyder, Texas before the mid-1930s and we, as a country, decided, you know what? Probably doesn’t make sense for people to be able to carry machine guns. We drew a line. It’s why so many members of law enforcement that I have talked to have said, ‘hey, I don’t want to be up against an AR-15 or an AK-47. I don’t like this idea of permit-less carry, where just about anyone can carry a firearm in public without a background check, without any vetting, without any training whatsoever.’

“I’ll tell you what, a Vietnam Veteran, a guy named Vic, that I know in El Paso who does not like my views on AR-15s and AK-47s, had me over for coffee to make sure that I got an earful of his point-of-view. And I heard him respectfully, and I said, ‘Sir, I understand that we come to different conclusions on this,’ and then he said, ‘but you know what scares me more than that? Is permitless carry. He said, ‘I’ll tell you why, Beto. I am a firearms instructor. In our previous license to carry program that we had here’ – that I fully supported and.. Frankly, I think it was the pride of America in terms of responsible gun ownership. You had to have some training before you carried that firearm in public. He said, ‘I had people who purchased a firearm, I came in and provided that training. They didn’t know what end of it the bullet came out of.’

“I wanted to make sure they had that training before they were on the streets – now none of them do. Nor do the 38,000 of our fellow Texans who were denied a license to carry over the last five years by members of law enforcement who said, ‘listen, this guy or this gal is too much a danger to themselves, or to their spouse or to their classmates – they should not be carrying a weapon in public.’

“38,000 times that was denied. Now with permitless carry, all 38,000 of those people are armed and loaded if they want to be, and we’re none the wiser or the safer for it. As are 10s of thousands of people who knew better than to ever apply for license to carry ’cause they never would have passed the background check.

“That’s not in keeping with our responsible tradition of the second amendment of gun ownership or gun use in the State of Texas. That’s why so many police chiefs and sheriffs, so many deputies and officers begged the governor not to sign this.

“More cops have been gunned down in Texas than in any other state, and since permitless carry was signed into law, we’ve seen a spike in gun violence for everybody else. This doesn’t have to be our future, our fortune or our fate. We’re Texans. We can defend the second amendment while protecting the lives of the people in our lives.”


Inflation and President Joe Biden

Question:
“Answer my question about how this whole country, not just the State of Texas, our entire country… With inflation and the whole … Who has the power to do this, to put us in the situation we’re in right now?”

O’Rourke:
“The additional question is, I think you’re asking about – you want me to say something about president Biden, I guess?”

Question:
“I’m talking about the whole shooting match up in DC.”

O’Rourke:
“Yeah, President Biden and the United States Congress, the people in Washington, DC, and – and what they’re responsible for, what they’re doing and how I feel about it…

“First and foremost, in a government of, by and for the people – that’s what we are as long as we are a… Democracy. And though we’re challenged right now, I’d say we still are a democracy. This one is on all of us. We decide who represents us in congress, the United States Senate, and in the White House.

“Those current leaders are making gains on some issues, huge investment in infrastructure done along a bipartisan basis.

“Investment in children that will radically reduce childhood poverty in the State of Texas, and investment in things that I talked about earlier – like broadband internet in rural communities and in our water systems. Texas has more failed water systems, where its dangerous to drink the water than does any other state. Those are good things.

“On the negative side, when it comes to Congress and the president, I’m deeply disappointed that they’ve done nothing to protect our democracy and make sure that everyone can participate in free and fair elections. We’re the most voter-challenged state in the nation. It’s harder to cast a ballot or register to vote here in the State of Texas than it is in any other place.

“I’m deeply disappointed that immigration has not been made a priority. That we haven’t re-written our laws yet. The last time we did that was when Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States. We’ve failed under this administration, we failed under the Trump Administration, the Obama Administration, the Bush Administration, going all the way back to the mid-1980s… I’d like to see more done there.

“And yes, inflation is on all of our minds right now. In fact, many of the doors that I knocked on – the price that people are paying right now… the first person I talked to, that veteran who said he does not know if he can afford to stay in Snyder going forward – that’s on our minds as well. but lets think about how we control that.

“In the seven years that Gregg Abbott has been the governor of this state, your property taxes have gone up $20 billion. That’s a 40% increase.

“You have some of the fastest growing electricity rates [than] anywhere on the planet… And when he shut down the US/Mexico border for more than a week, everything that we import, started to cost more and more and more. [The] Wall Street Journal talked about Gregg Abbott’s $5 avocados because two-thirds of the groceries we consume come from Mexico, and they were all rotting on those international bridges. The number one driver inflation in the State of Texas right now is Gregg Abbott.

“So this one’s on us. This next election, a little more than three months away, is our chance to determine our future and the future for our kids on anything that we care about – including the state of the country, especially here in the State of Texas. Thank you.”