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“It’ll be empty—no seats filled—because Abbott refuses to face those he’s failed these last 8 years,” O’Rourke said in a tweet with a photo of an empty auditorium before the debate began.
Abbott’s team rejected the assertion, saying that O’Rourke agreed to the audience-free debate months ago.
“The terms of debate were agreed to by both campaigns months ago, and now at the last minute Beto doesn’t like them. He’s a fraud surrounded [by] incompetence,” said Mark Miner, a campaign spokesperson for Abbott.
The debate, which began at 7 p.m., is taking place at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg in front of hundreds of empty seats. Even the media covering the event is stationed in a separate room and is not allowed to be in the space where the debate is taking place.
An email shared with The Texas Tribune by O’Rourke’s campaign indicates that the governor declined several requests by O’Rourke’s team to change several aspects of the debate.
“I received feedback from the Abbott campaign on the requested changes we discussed yesterday in reference to, adding an audience, town hallstyle format, standing for Beto, and date change,” read an email between O’Rourke’s campaign and Nexstar, the debate organizer.
O’Rourke criticized Abbott on social media after holding a press conference with family members of the Uvalde shooting victims. About 35 family members boarded a bus from Uvalde on Friday morning to travel 280 miles and nearly five hours to the news conference in Edinburg.
With no option to watch the debate in person, the family members will instead see the event at an O’Rourke watch party before heading back home. The families of the Uvalde school shooting victims have been vocal in their advocacy for gun control measures, meeting with lawmakers in Austin and Washington and keeping the issue in news, even four months after the shooting.
Trump officials stuffed Hunter Biden photos in White House HVAC unit to troll incoming administration
On Friday, POLITICO reported that outgoing Trump officials broke the White House air conditioning system by stuffing it full of photos of President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, to get a rise out of the incoming administration.
The revelation comes out of the upcoming book "Confidence Man," by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
"Excerpts of the new book shared with West Wing Playbook show how in the final days of his presidency, Trump’s team took steps to sabotage their successors," reported Max Tani and Alex Thompson. "Haberman reported that an employee of John McEntee, who served as Trump’s director of the Presidential Personnel Office, stuffed copies of photos of Hunter Biden into an air conditioning unit at the White House, breaking it."
"The moment was a particularly petty representation of the disregard even rank-and-file staff had for the people who would soon be taking their jobs," said the report. "The direct interactions between Trump and Biden’s senior staff weren’t much better."
Hunter Biden has been a years-long focus of Republican efforts to create scandal within the Biden administration, much of it centering on a laptop that reportedly contained evidence he tried to profit off of his family name, though there is still no evidence the president was aware of or supported this.
Simultaneously, Hunter Biden is reportedly under criminal investigation by federal officials, who are investigating whether he committed tax fraud and improperly obtained a gun while ineligible due to admitted substance abuse issues.
Only 39 days before the Nov. 8 election, there's a late-breaking scandal involving former Mike Pence aide Diego Morales, the GOP nominee for Secretary of State in Indiana.
"On Friday morning, political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz published interviews with two women who said they had been sexually assaulted by Morales years ago. The stories appeared in Shabazz's publication, the Cheat Sheet," the Indianapolis Star reported Friday evening. "The allegations are the latest controversy to touch Morales, who was nominated by Republican delegates at convention despite once being fired from the very office he now seeks. His military experience has also been scrutinized after he made it the focus of his campaign despite spending a total of just three months and 18 days on active duty as part of his training period."
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer indicated he knew about the allegations after a Republican asked to meet with him.
"At the meeting, she shared with me elements of a story that have now been made public," Hupfer said. "It wasn’t then, nor is it now, my story to share."
The initial story, which appeared as a 21-page document, says the women accused Morales of "groping them and inappropriate sexual contact."
The first woman says she met Morales while working on a Republican campaign and the second says they met at the secretary of state's office.
Both women say they are now backing Democrat Destiny Wells, an Afghanistan veteran and Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.
"Diego Morales' victims need to be heard and believed," Wells said in a statement.
"It takes tremendous courage in coming forward, and the last thing I want is for their personal sacrifice to be for naught," she explained. "While this race has been focused on safeguarding our right to vote, we too must safeguard a woman's right to exist in the workplace free of sexual harassment and assault."
"For weeks we have seen mounting evidence that Diego will say and do anything to get what he wants—as Hoosiers, I know this is not in line with our values—we have had enough," she added.
Jeff Mauer, the Libertarian Party nominee, said Morales "should come forward in a public debate to answer questions about these allegations as well as unanswered questions about his military service. Refusing to debate is refusing to answer to ‘We The People;’ Mr. Morales insults not only all Hoosiers but our American process.”
Morales said the accusations are "a compilation of pure gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo."