Democrat Robert "Beto" O'Rourke, the former U.S. congressman from Texas who drew national attention in 2018 in his bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, is planning on running for governor and will announce his bid before the end of 2021, sources told Axios.

Longtime adviser David Wysong told Axios that “no decision has been made." However, he also said O’Rourke had been "making and receiving calls with people all over the state."

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will be seeking his third term in November 2022 after two landslide victories. Abbott has drawn criticism in recent days for signing a measure that prohibits abortions as early as six weeks. He also was criticized in February after Texas saw one of the largest power outages in U.S. history.

O'Rourke, 48, served three terms in the U.S. House, representing El Paso. He resigned to run for Senate in 2018, narrowly losing to Cruz. He made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 after having been prodded to run in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

No major Democrat has officially announced their candidacy. Some of O'Rourke's possible challengers include Joaquin Castro, Julian Castro, Wendy Davis, and Lina Hidalgo. O'Rourke may also face a challenge from actor Matthew McConaughey, an independent who has also weighed a challenge to Abbott. 

Winning major elections in Texas has been considered a top goal for Democrats in recent years. O'Rourke had a strong showing in 2018 against Cruz and some polls had shown Joe Biden in a tight race with Donald Trump in 2020. 

But Democrats ultimately came up short in Texas in what has been a long losing streak and proof that the battle to turn blue is far more difficult than it seems. The state hasn't backed a Democratic candidate for president since 1976 and Democrats haven't won a gubernatorial race since 1990.

Some of the optimism for Texas comes after Democrats gained ground in red-state Georgia, nearly winning a gubernatorial race in 2018. In 2020, Biden captured the 16 electoral votes against Trump and Georgia later elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in January.

O'Rourke might be aided by changing demographics. Austin, a city that leans to the left, continues to draw more new residents. According to the 2020 census, Austin grew by 21% over the last decade to a population of 961,855. Democrats have also cut the gap in the margin of defeat in recent elections.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, told Axios that "We hope [O’Rourke is] going to run. We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott."

In the 2018 campaign, O'Rourke visited every Texas county and garnered celebrity appeal for his speeches and having musician Willie Nelson perform at rally. He was credited with helping Democrats win key state and local elections.

Democrat Julie Oliver, a former congressional candidate, said O’Rourke “might be the only person who could unseat Abbott, honestly."