By Nicole Lyn Pesce
That was 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on MSNBC on Tuesday. The former congressman from El Paso blamed the state’s Republican leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for millions of residents going days now without heat or electricity .
O’Rourke said that the energy crisis in Texas is “worse than you are hearing,” and described people huddling together in local libraries running on generator power to stay warm. About 30% of the power-generating capacity for most of Texas was offline Tuesday due to the extreme cold weather as demand for electric heating spiked. Nearly 3 million customers were still without power early Wednesday in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
And at least 20 deaths related to the extreme weather have been reported across the country, including a woman and an 8-year-old girl in Texas .
O’Rourke blamed GOP leadership for waging “stupid culture battles” — such as making it a legislative priority to play the U.S. national anthem at Dallas Mavericks home games — rather than protecting Texans from COVID-19 or severe weather events.
He noted that Abbott’s State of the State address listed priorities such as investigating debunked claims of election fraud or “making Texas a gun sanctuary state — but left out the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccination rollout, or ways to protect Texans from natural disasters, like the one they are grappling with now.
Opinion: What’s behind the Texas power outages?
“Climate change and the change in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, from Hurricane Harvey to this cold blast right now … we know this stuff is coming,” O’Rourke said. “What we don’t know is whether our leaders are prepared to make the tough political decisions to prepare us for them.”
He also accused the deregulation of the Texas electricity grid of creating an incentive against preparing for weather events like this, “so that some of your plants can be shut down, and you can profit from the spiking prices for energy and electricity.”
Read more: Texas power disaster may be strongest case yet for renewable energy
The interview led some supporters to call for O’Rourke to run for governor of Texas.
O’Rourke continued pressing the state’s GOP leadership from his personal Twitter account on Tuesday night.
And one Texas mayor’s controversial response to the dual weather and energy crises certainly supported O’Rourke’s criticism about local leadership in the Lone Star State.
Tim Boyd, who until recently was the mayor of Colorado City, Texas, wrote on Facebook that the local government is not responsible for doing anything to support residents during such a crisis. And he called the families waiting for their elected officials to help them “lazy,” adding that “only the strong will survive.”
“No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments [sic] responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice!” he wrote, as reported by local CBS affiliate KTAB . “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!”
He has since taken that post down, and revealed that he has resigned.