By Steven Monacelli

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke was warmly welcomed by hundreds at Disciple Central Community Church in DeSoto, Texas this past weekend. Among the highly diverse crowd were over a dozen elected officials from across the area, including a handful of Dallas City council members.

DeSoto Mayor Rachel L. Proctor introduced O’Rourke to an ecstatic crowd with words of high praise. “When I was coming in last year as a brand new year at the height of the pandemic as well as in the middle of winter storm Uri, when other people were missing in action, Beto came to check on DeSoto,” Mayor Proctor said.

O’Rourke used the visit to hammer on a number of key policy issues that have become central to the gubernatorial race over the past months. To great applause, O’Rourke proposed integrating the Texas power grid with the national power grid and going after the people who he says profited off of failure.

“We are going to take those who traded on our misery,” O’Rourke said. “And get every single penny back.”

O’Rourke’s statements on other topics like gun violence, abortion rights, and the legalization of marijuana also drew cheers from the crowd.

“In five days there will be a total ban on abortion with no exception for rape and no exception for incest in a state that leads much of the developed world in the rate of maternal mortality,” O’Rourke said. “Three times as deadly for Black women as it is for white women in this state…This total abortion ban is going to be a death sentence for women in this state.”

After the conclusion of his stump speech, O’Rourke fielded questions from the audience. The first question focused on the issues of electoral gerrymandering and voter suppression in the state. O’Rourke said in response that the state should implement same day voter registration, introduce citizen led redistricting processes, and replace Confederate Heroes Day — which is still celebrated in the state — with an Election Holiday.

Another question focused on the topics of the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline, a term for the disturbing national trend “wherein youth are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal legal systems,” as defined by the ACLU.

O’Rourke noted that Black students as young as 5 are more likely to be suspended than their white peers and called for the hiring of more diverse teachers, as well as the introduction of restorative justice programs that help criminal offenders get a degree and become productive members of society.

The final question came from a third grade girl, who asked O’Rourke what he would do to keep schools safe from armed intruders.

“The thing I fear most is your judgment and the judgment of my kids,” O’Rourke said. “At some point there is going to be an accounting for what we did or failed to do. So to your specific question, I want to listen to your principal, your teacher, and to you, to find out what we need to invest in to make kids safe. Others will talk about mental health care. I don’t know if there’s a direct connection between the shooting in Uvalde or others and mental healthcare. But even if there is a connection, and make sure that we fully fund mental healthcare and make these schools safer…but fail to do anything about the guns…we will have failed you at the end of the day.”

Steven Monacelli is an independent investigative journalist based in Dallas. He has been contributing to Dallas Weekly since 2021. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication.