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Abbott vs. O'Rourke: Race for Texas governor heats up in Houston as candidates trade attacks

Even with at least two GOP challengers, Abbott focused on the former Democratic Congressman and one-time presidential candidate, his likely opponent in November.

HOUSTON — The race for Texas governor heating up in Houston. Governor Greg Abbott was in town Wednesday touting his support from law enforcement groups across Texas, including the Houston Police Officer's Union. 

"My goal is for the weeks and months ahead to make clear that I've delivered," Abbott said. 

The governor still has a Republican primary to get through in March, but you wouldn't know it listening to his remarks. 

"Beto O'Rourke was to the left of Joe Biden," Abbott claimed.

He focused squarely on the former Democratic Congressman and one-time presidential candidate, his likely opponent in November. 

"Beto O'Rourke is dangerous to the communities and to the safety of the public and the people of this state and he is not fitting to serve as governor," Abbott said.

The Governor accused O'Rourke of supporting defund the police movements and attacking him for his position on bail reform. 

"This is Governor Abbott lying about me," O'Rourke said. "I do not want to defund the police. I want to make sure law enforcement have the resources they need to solve and investigate violent crimes."

O'Rourke fired back in an interview with KHOU 11 News anchor Rekha Muddaraj.

"We need a governor who's focused on safety of our communities and the well- being of our families," O'Rourke said. "I will be that governor. Greg Abbott has clearly failed in that job."

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones says these back and forths are a sample of what a general election may look like. 

"Certainly, policy support is a winner whether you're in a primary or general election," Jones said. 

Despite primaries still to come in March, Jones believes there's little doubt it'll be O'Rourke vs. Abbott come November. 

"As long as there's not a freeze between now until the end of March, Abbott should be in good shape," Jones said. 

Early voting for the March 1 primary in Texas begins on February 14 right around the anniversary of last year's deadly freeze.

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