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Texas Gov. Abbott and Beto O'Rourke are set for an election clash after primary wins

Former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott.
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images; Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott.

Updated March 1, 2022 at 11:48 PM ET

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday staved off Republican primary challenges from far-right opponents, according to a race call from The Associated Press, setting up a closely watched general election clash against Democratic nominee Beto O'Rourke.

Abbott handily trounced the field of fellow Republicans, topping the 50% mark needed to avoid a runoff. His opponents included former Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West and businessman Don Huffines — both of whom had sought to position themselves as the more conservative alternative to Abbott.

Abbott, who is seeking his third term in office, had secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

"Tonight, Republicans sent a message that they want to keep Texas the land of opportunity and prosperity for absolutely everybody — the prosperity that we have delivered over the past eight years," Abbott said at a Corpus Christi rally.

He now faces O'Rourke in the Nov. 8 election.

O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, also easily won his party's nomination, according to the AP.

"THANK YOU, TEXAS," O'Rourke wrote in a Twitter message to his supporters. "We are going to win this race with one another, for one another."

Pre-primary polling has found Abbott besting O'Rourke, and Texas hasn't elected a Democratic governor in more than three decades.

But O'Rourke emerged in 2018 as a new face of Texas' Democratic Party, as he energized a new generation of voters while running against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Though beaten in that contest, O'Rourke remained in the public spotlight, riding a wave of Beto-mania into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, where he took some left-leaning positions that may complicate his efforts to appeal to Texans.

And the landscape in 2022 is likely to be a far cry from that of 2018 and 2020. Biden's ratings are low — an ominous warning for down-ballot Democrats.

O'Rourke has criticized Abbott's conservative stewardship of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as electricity grid failures in Texas last year.

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Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.