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Home | Tag Archives: beto 2020

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Gallery+Story: O’Rourke Officially Launches ‘Grassroots Campaign’ for President

Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke officially kicked off his Grassroots Campaign in the heart of Downtown El Paso, on the corner of El Paso Street and Overland Drive.

O’Rourke arrived on stage around 10:45 a.m.; introduced by his wife Amy O’Rourke, walking onto the stage to the song, “We are looking for a clampdown,” by the Clash.

“It was really important for Amy and me to launch this campaign, it’s the city where I was born. It’s the same city where Amy and I are raising our three kids. And perhaps most important, El Paso to me represents America at it’s best,” O’Rourke said to the crowd.

More than 1,000 supporters turned out to his event on Saturday, and the streets of El Paso and Overland were filled with his supporters, who carried pro-Beto signs.

Throughout his speech supporters for President Donald Trump booed in the distance. But O’Rourke was undeterred and instead called for the divided America to put the business of the country before them.

“This is a campaign for America,” he said.

Immigration, quality universal healthcare, and mental health support for veterans were among the first topics that O’Rourke touched on in his speech.

“Let us come together by prioritizing a policy that begins by prioritizing affordability in prescription medications that brings down the cost of our premiums and our deductibles.”

O’Rourke added that everyone should have access to quality healthcare and mental healthcare. He added that providing that universal healthcare should also allow women to choose what they want to do with their own bodies.

“We can give every American, every business in this country the choice to enroll in medicare without  eliminated plans that many Americans like for their families because those plans work. No one left behind, no one priced out. We must get universal guaranteed high quality healthcare as soon as possible.”

O’Rourke continued laying out his platform by sharing that he supports unions, investment in hospitals and infrastructure for rural communities and supporting agriculture and providing them with incentives to capture the carbon emitted.

“Thanks to our own emissions and excess this planet has warmed to 1 degree Celsius, and the fires, droughts and floods and the man-made disasters will only get worse,” O’Rourke said. “This is our moment with little more than 10 years to spare – to free this economy for our dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, to make investments in new and green technology.”

O’Rourke additionally pointed out his views that included:

* Equal Pay for Women
* Paid Family Leave
* Access to Capitol for Communities that have been actively shut out.
* Ending the federal prohibition of marijuana and expunging the records for those who had possession of it – something that is medically and recreationally legal in several states.
* Freeing Dreamers from any fear of deportation and create a comprehensive immigration reform.

Earlier this week, more than 500 Central Americans were detained at the border of the Paso Del Norte Bridge, where they are being temporarily housed underneath the bridge.

Other policies that O’Rourke disagreed with included Trump’s policy that enacted the separation of families in the Spring 2018, which sprung up the Tornillo Detention Center, where children were placed while they waited to be processed. Two children died while in the custody of ICE.

O’Rourke, made it a point to stress that not another child should be separated from their families while in custody.

“Let’s bring millions more out of the shadows and onto a path to their maximum potential to the success of this country,” O’Rourke said of the Dreamers. “Let’s make sure that we don’t take another child from another mother. Let us reunite every single of those families that are separated. Let’s remember that those that are detained under the international bridge behind chain fences and barbed wire – they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated like our fellow human beings.”

O’Rourke stressed that security for the border needs to focus on not building a wall, but rather focusing on securing the ports of entry and facilitating trade and travel; and supporting the Customs and Border Protection agents.

“For 20 years we have been one of the safest cities in America,” he said. “We are safe not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We understand that we are in the words of Dr. King caught in an inescapable network of mutuality – tied in a single garment of destiny. And that’s why i’ms o glad to be here with you today in my hometown and my hometown to let you know that I’m running to serve you as the next president in the United States of America.”

O’Rourke then switched up his speech and spoke in Spanish.

“El exito de este pais depende de cada persona entre los Estados Unidos,” O’Rourke said.

His speech was briefly interrupted by chants of, “Si se pude,” (Yes we can!)

O’Rourke did make one campaign promise clear.

“As president I will sign into law a new voting rights act. We will end gerrymandering, we will take money out of our politics. And all across this country we will have automatic and same day voter registration across this country.”

At the counter rally, held outside the Plaza Theater, Trump supporters held signs against O’Rourke’s policies including his stance on abortion and immigration.

Brenda Vigil held up her sign that read, Beto equals Liar.

“I was born here in El Paso but I’ve lived here all my adult life, and a friend told me that this is the new Juarez. And I thought – yea right. But this is the new Juarez. All these people that have been living in the shadows – Dreamers whatever you want to call them, we don’t reward people in the United States for committing crimes. If we incarcerate Americans for committing crimes, why do you object Beto to incarcerating illegal immigrants that commit crime. That doesn’t make sense.”

Vigil strongly believed that O’Rourke’s run for president was being done for attention.

“Beautiful family, beautiful rich family – they need to be on a reality show – not the presidency,” she said.

Carolyn, who didn’t want to give out her last name, said that she was embarrassed for O’Rourke and his family. She held up a sign that read, “The Russia Hoax is finally dead. The Collusion Delusion is over. Trump 2020.

“What has he done? He did nothing in the Senate,” Carolyn said. “And he was a crappy city councilman.”

Throughout the morning, the anti-Beto protest grew and passerby who had just completed the bike race down a few blocks away; and other O’Rourke Supporters who needed to get by to get to their rally, or who had just finished purchasing a Starbucks walked in front of the Trump supporters.

Many of them simply ignored the protesters. But in some instances, a couple of Trump supporters got in the faces of those who were walking toward the O’Rourke Kickoff.

“Stop killing our babies,” One woman said. “Beto supports abortion. Babies have a right to life – you’re here. Why are you here?”

Another Trump supporter, who held a sign that read, walked toward and shouted at those that were heading toward the kickoff.  “You’re going the wrong way!”

After O’Rourke’s kickoff in El Paso his next stop is Houston where he will speak at Texas Southern University at 5 p.m. Then, he’s heading to Austin where he is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m., at 9th and Congress.

Author: Alex Hinojosa | Photos: Andres Acosta – El Paso Herald Post

Gallery+Story: As Beto O’Rourke Rallied, El Pasoans, visitors share their thoughts

Beto O’Rourke formally launched his campaign for the 2020 Presidential race today. The corner of Overland and El Paso Street was packed with thousands attendees, all wanting to be part of what some are calling a historic moment.

“I drove down from Colorado Springs,” said Wendy Reynolds. “I knew I had to be here. Something like this doesn’t happen often, a man like Beto doing the most selfless thing anyone could do, run for President of the United States.”

Then there is Joe Alvarez who drove in to see Beto O’Rourke. He arrived last night from San Antonio.

“What I like most about Beto is that he authentic, inspiring and he genuinely cares for people. He has demonstrated this by standing by and for the people who need their voices heard. I come from a migrant farm working family so when he stands up to the hateful rhetoric that our president so many times expresses almost every single day; he brings me pride and hope for a better tomorrow,” says Joe.

“And I believe that people with pride and hope cannot be oppressed, diminished or humiliated. I have been following him for the past two years, and I know that he listens to people’s concerns and issues and he wants to bring people (Republicans, Democrats, and Independents) together, and America needs that. So, what brought me here today in one word: inspiration. He needs our support, and as a Latino, we often get dismissed or taken for granted, I need to do my part to get him elected to be our next President.”

Being authentic, Beto’s authenticity is something I heard throughout the morning.

“I love Beto’s inclusiveness and authenticity. He is a servant leader and listens to people. He admits when he is and apologizes. He is real,” said Kim Ortiz who drove in from Dallas, Texas.

“My husband and I drove 678 miles from Greenville, Texas,” says Shauna Red Holloway. “We supported Beto through the Senate race. We love the way Beto is very inclusive and wants to work with anyone to come up with a better way to help people, instead of bashing everyone and getting nowhere.”

Sheryl Curtin traveled to El Paso from Houston with Sarah Kerrigan and Jane McEldowney.

“We supported Beto in his Senate race, and every time we heard him speak, we came away inspired by his message of unity and decency. We think his positions on immigration, security and healthcare are spot on! We wanted to be an enthusiastic part of his Presidential kickoff.”

I did speak with Jamie De La Cruz before the rally, but he asked if I could speak with him after the rally. He wanted to hear what he had to say before he commented. He did catch up with me, and as we walked to our cars, we had a conversation.

“I voted for Trump last election,” said Jamie. “I wish I hadn’t. I believed the bill of goods he sold us about draining the swamp and getting billionaires out of cabinet position. All he did was drain it and fill it with his handpicked billionaires. I’m not yet sold on Mr. Beto.”

De La Cruz labels himself as a Republo-Crat. He’s not fully Republican, nor fully Democrat. He’s trying to find a happy medium.

“He’s up there; he’s talking, he’s himself. He’s real,” shared De La Cruz. “Hearing him talk, seeing him with his family and some of the people out there that he talked to, he was talking talk that promises change. I’ve not seen or heard such talk since Jimmy Carter ran. Will I vote for Mr. Beto now? Without a doubt.”

Others were not so optimistic about Beto O’Rourke, or able to assign importance to today’s event.

He’s here to tell us he wants more money and a chance to destroy other historic neighborhoods,” said Juan, who said that Beto O’Rourke not only sold out the Durangito in order to enrich himself but will do the same on a larger scale. “It’s all money for him and his cartel family.”

“I can’t see what he’s done that whole time he was up there in Congress,” said Ruben. “I can’t think of anyone bill of his that became a law at all. I’m a Democrat, but I think we can do better than him.”

I asked both Juan and Ruben why they were at today’s event.

“To show that not all of us are backing a fellow Democrat just because he’s from El Paso.”

“No. Just no!” is how Rosa Garcia responded when I asked her opinion. At first, I thought she was telling me no, so I began to apologize and walk away.

“I don’t know why we should put him there. He doesn’t care. His speeches are…” I waited as she searched for the word. “His speeches are platitudes. It is full of sugary words to make you feel nice and warm but no substance.”

Rosa has seen a lot in her eighty-four years of life. She shared with me what she believes to be the truth of his campaign. “He’s only out to make this name for himself. He likes this spotlight,” said Rosa. “He likes being the center of people’s attention.”

In the end, both rallies were peaceful and without any incidents. El Paso showed once again, no matter what, we can come together and share our opinions without fear or worry.

Beto O’Rourke running for president

After months of intense speculation, Beto O’Rourke is entering the presidential race Thursday, marking an extraordinary rise from little-known El Paso congressman a few years ago to potentially formidable White House contender.

“Amy and I are happy to share with you that I’m running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America,” O’Rourke says in a video with his wife released Thursday morning. “This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.”

O’Rourke is making the announcement ahead of a three-day trip to Iowa that begins Thursday afternoon. In the video, O’Rourke says he will travel the country before returning to El Paso on March 30 for a kickoff rally.

“This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country,” O’Rourke says in the announcement. “We saw the power of this in Texas.”

O’Rourke became a national star last year as he challenged U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ultimately losing by a closer-than-expected margin. He campaigned relentlessly, visiting all of the state’s 254 counties, and shattered Senate campaignfundraising records while building an army of small-dollar donors and eschewing money from political action committees.

In recent weeks, it looked more and more clear that O’Rourke would ride the momentum from his blockbuster Senate run into his party’s crowded primary to take on President Donald Trump. It is a primary that already includes another Texan, Julián Castro.

Castro had his own announcement shortly after O’Rourke’s on Thursday morning, unveiling endorsements from 30 Texas Democrats. The list included two state senators and 17 state representatives.

O’Rourke finally confirmed his intentions Wednesday evening, telling the El Paso TV station KTSM in a text that he had decided to make a White House bid and would announce it Thursday morning.

O’Rourke is among the last high-profile Democrats to reveal their 2020 intentions. With his announcement, the spotlight intensifies on former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to say whether he is running.

O’Rourke begins his White House bid with a number of open questions looming over him. Among them: Can he scale up the do-it-yourself style of his Senate campaign, in which he swore off pollsters and political consultants? And how will his record hold up in a massive Democratic primary versus a statewide general election against someone like Cruz?

In November, O’Rourke did not beat Cruz but beat expectations, losing by less than 3 percentage points. And with O’Rourke at the top of the ticket in Texas, Democrats made significant gains down ballot in 2018, picking up two seats in Congress, two in the state Senate and a dozen in the Texas House.

Even before the Senate election, O’Rourke was discussed as a potential presidential candidate. During the race, he had promised not to run in 2020 but reversed himselfshortly after the election, touching off months of fervent speculation about his plans.

As he mulled a White House bid, two “Draft Beto” groups popped up and got to work laying a foundation for him in the early voting states. Looking to shake a post-election funk, O’Rourke took a solo road trip outside Texas, stopping in small towns across the Southwest and blogging at length about his experiences. He re-emerged in early February, when he went to New York City for an interview with media mogul Oprah Winfrey — and revealed that he expected to decide on his plans for 2020 by the end of the month.

After the Oprah interview, O’Rourke continued to stoke 2020 speculation, leading a counter-rally when President Donald Trump visited El Paso in early February to make the case for his long-sought border wall. Speaking to a cheering crowd of thousands, O’Rourke argued that barriers force immigrants to cross into the U.S. in more remote, dangerous stretches of the border.

“We know that walls do not save lives,” O’Rourke said. “Walls end lives.”

Around the same time, O’Rourke made another trip outside Texas, visiting Wisconsin and Illinois.

“I came here with not much of an agenda other than to listen to you,” O’Rourke told college students in Madison, according to media reports.

With his end-of-month deadline looming, O’Rourke continued to keep his options open. At an event in mid-February where he was named El Pasoan of the Year, he did not rule out taking a different path in 2020, such as running against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

But then on Feb. 27, word got out that he was passing on another run for U.S. Senate, and he teased that more news was forthcoming.

“I’m not going to give a date certain but hope to be able to say something pretty soon,” he told The Texas Tribune. “I want to announce to everyone at the same time.”

It has been a remarkable rise for O’Rourke, who was little-known statewide — let alone nationally — prior to his Senate run. Even his 2018 campaign largely flew under the radar for over a year until late summer 2018, when a video went viral of him defending NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

O’Rourke first won election to Congress in 2012, when he unseated U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, in a primary upset. Before that, O’Rourke served for six years on the El Paso City Council.

O’Rourke has come to overshadow other Texas Democrats long regarded as rising stars — including Castro. The former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor launched his campaign in mid-January and has since been making trips to the early voting states as well as those deeper into the nominating calendar.

O’Rourke’s Iowa trip — his first since he emerged as a potential candidate — will take him to over a dozen counties across the state, according to his campaign. He is so far scheduled to make stops Thursday in Burlington and Muscatine; Friday in Mount Pleasant and Cedar Rapids; and Saturday in North Liberty, Waterloo and Dubuque. Among the more notable events are a 5K run in North Liberty — reminiscent of the jogging he did with supporters in the Senate race — and a previously announced canvass kickoff in Waterloo for Eric Giddens, the Democratic candidate in a special election Tuesday for Iowa Senate.

O’Rourke’s campaign noted that of the counties he is visiting, eight voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 before flipping to Trump in 2016.

While O’Rourke is among the last prominent Democrats to announce their 2020 plans, he has not lost out on top talent in the Hawkeye State. Iowa Democrats say O’Rourke is working with a veteran operative named Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the state party.

The Republican National Committee released a statement Thursday morning criticizing O’Rourke.

“It’s telling that the Democrats’ biggest star is someone whose biggest accomplishment is losing,” RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens said. “Beto O’Rourke failed to get anything done in Congress, and with extreme policies like government-run health care and tearing down border barriers, his 2020 bid won’t be successful either.”

O’Rourke may not have been reaching out to early voting states until recently, but the draft groups have been building a foundation for him over the past few months throughout the country. One of them, Draft Beto, said it had built a volunteer staff of 24 people, put on 30 house parties in nine states, raised $40,000 and recruited students to lead chapters at over 100 colleges.

“This is the moment that thousands of volunteers across the country have been waiting for,” said Will Herberich, co-chair of the other group, Draft Beto 2020. “We’re ready to get to work.”

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke not challenging John Cornyn in 2020

Beto O’Rourke is not running for U.S. Senate in 2020, a person familiar with his thinking told The Texas Tribune.

The Dallas Morning News first reported Wednesday that O’Rourke, a Democrat, would not take on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, after the former El Paso congressman’s closer-than-expected loss last year to the state’s junior senator, Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has since been encouraged to run for president and has said he hopes to have a 2020 decision by the end of the month — which is Thursday.

“Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “We are excited to share it with everyone soon.”

Amid the heightened 2020 speculation, O’Rourke is expected to make a public appearance Wednesday evening in El Paso. He is scheduled to kick off the first meeting of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, the anti-gun violence group. The chapter was started by his 2018 campaign manager, Jody Casey.

O’Rourke’s decision not to challenge Cornyn comes after weeks of declining to rule it out amid encouragement from some Democrats who saw it as a more winnable race for him than the White House contest. However, O’Rourke never publicly said he was specifically considering a Senate run — something he has said about a presidential bid.

“Am I the best person to lead this country?” O’Rourke said during a recent visit to a college class in El Paso. “Beyond my ego and my ambition … what is the best thing for the United States of America? And in thinking through that, and in suspending your ego in that process, is tough. And so I’m in that process of thinking this through, talking to [my wife] Amy, listening to good friends and then hearing what you all have to say right now.”

O’Rourke reportedly met earlier this month with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about a possible Cornyn challenge — a meeting that Cornyn alluded to as he reacted to news of O’Rourke’s decision Wednesday evening.

“Looks like Schumer couldn’t close the deal,” Cornyn tweeted.

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.


Beto O’Rourke’s Immigration Plan: No Wall, but Few Specifics

In a digital ad that recently went viral, Beto O’Rourke tore into President Trump’s desired border wall with soaring footage of the Rio Grande Valley and an explanation of what the wall would do: cut off access to the river, shrink the size of the United States and force the seizure of privately-held land.

It noted that most undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States in the past decade came not over the border but on visas that then expired.

So what should be done to address visa overstays?

“I don’t know,” O’Rourke said, pausing in a lengthy interview.

O’Rourke, who represented a border district in the House for six years, talked through the issue and came up with a possible solution: The United States could harmonize its visa system with Mexico’s to keep better track of who is coming into the country and leaving it.

“That’s an answer,” he said, “but that’s something that we should be debating.”

When it comes to many of the biggest policy issues facing the country today, O’Rourke’s default stance is to call for a debate — even on issues related to the border and immigration, which he has heavily emphasized in videos posted to Facebook and Instagram over the past month.

O’Rourke’s approach reflects how he is likely to handle issues should he launch a presidential campaign. Beyond a few mainstream Democratic stances — including closing private immigration prisons, allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens and modernizing the work visa system — O’Rourke insists the thorny immigration answers will come from everyday Americans. It’s an approach that puts off specifics that might define him or narrow his appeal in a presidential race — but O’Rourke says he is being open-minded, as he wishes more politicians would be.

“That’s a problem when you’re like, ‘It will be a wall,’ or ‘It will be this,’ or ‘We can only do it with this,’” O’Rourke said when asked why he doesn’t have firm stances. “The genius is we can nonviolently resolve our differences, though I won’t get to my version of perfect or I, working with you, will get to something better than what we have today . . . It’s rare that someone’s ever been able to impose their will unilaterally in this country. We don’t want that.”

He insists that once Americans are informed about “the facts and the story and the information and the opportunity,” they will come to the right conclusions about what to do about an issue that has divided the country for decades.

“I trust the wisdom of people. And I’m confident — especially after having traveled Texas for two years — people are good, fundamentally, and if given the choice to do the right thing, they will. To do the good thing, they will,” he said, referring to his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign while giving a walking tour of El Paso and its Mexican sister city, Juarez.

On other issues, his approach was similar.

When asked whether he agrees with Trump’s plan to quickly withdraw troops from Syria, O’Rourke said he would like to see “a debate, a discussion, a national conversation about why we’re there, why we fight, why we sacrifice the lives of American service members, why we’re willing to take the lives of others” in all the countries where the U.S. is involved.

“There may be a very good reason to do it. I don’t necessarily understand — and I’ve been a member of Congress for six years,” O’Rourke said. “We haven’t had a meaningful discussion about these wars since 2003.”

Asked about the “Green New Deal” being crafted by Democrats to dramatically curb climate change emissions and heavily invest in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, he praised it as a “bold” start that avoided “wishy-washy change.”

The details are apt to change, he said, adding, “But, thank God the work has been done to articulate the goal, the vision, the means to achieve it, and that’s a perfect point from which to start a conversation.”

As O’Rourke’s decision on a presidential campaign nears, immigration is the issue in which he has chosen to invest his time — putting him directly at odds with President Trump, against whom the next Democratic nominee will compete.

For all his current focus on the border, O’Rourke played a negligible role in shaping immigration policy during his six years in Congress, which ended this month. Even now, he rarely uses his expanding national platform to call for specific legislation or transformative changes in the immigration system.

He said he believes that the border is already fully secured and that further investment would take it even further “past the point of diminishing returns,” pushing migrants seeking to cross the border illegally into more dangerous and desolate territory.

“You will ensure death,” he said of Trump’s proposed wall. “You and I, as Americans, have caused the deaths of others through these walls.”

Just as Trump has used the heart-wrenching stories of Americans murdered by undocumented immigrants to build support for his wall, O’Rourke leans on a narrative of migrants and those living along the border. In his unsuccessful race for the Senate last year, O’Rourke frequently compared Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis and being refused entry into many countries, including the United States.

Luis Gutierrez, the former Democratic congressman from Illinois who spearheaded immigration measures in the House for many years, said he was “very pleasantly surprised” to see O’Rourke suddenly interested in immigration last year. Even though O’Rourke represented a majority Hispanic district along the border, he was not deeply involved with immigration reform, Gutierrez said. But he praised O’Rourke for his recent efforts to demystify the border and bring attention to immigration issues.

“A lot of people want to talk about where people start,” he said, “and I like to talk about where people are at.”

The last major attempt at a sweeping immigration package came just after O’Rourke took office. In June 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill that would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to legally stay in the United States and eventually become citizens. It also would have doubled the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents along the southern border and authorized 700 miles of fencing.

O’Rourke said at the time that he supported “a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that pay their taxes, obey our laws and learn English,” but he opposed efforts to “militarize our border against a threat that does not exist.”

Then-House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to take up the Senate’s immigration bill, at which point, O’Rourke said, the issue died.

“We could have these discussions in caucus meetings, but it’s like spitting in the wind if [Republican lawmakers] are not going to actually engage in the conversation,” O’Rourke said. “There was a huge missed opportunity, which created the opportunity — in some ways — for Trump.”

O’Rourke is trying to undo Trump’s image of the border by showing Americans what he sees.

In the past month, he has introduced his followers to migrant families just released from detention centers, broadcast a rally held outside a tent camp that once housed thousands of detained migrant children and showed the numbers written on the wrists of Guatemalan migrants waiting their turn to claim asylum in the United States. He has taken his followers along on a late-night walk through his historic El Paso neighborhood and a Saturday night trip to Juarez for dinner with his family.

He has interviewed his neighbors — and, rather famously, his dental hygienist during a cleaning — about life on the border, reinforcing their feeling of safety in a zone the president has condemned as crime-ridden.

After Trump spoke to the nation about his demand for border wall funding in exchange for reopening the government, O’Rourke aired, to thousands, a conversation with two close friends discussing the president’s messaging.

“He has seized this emotional language very effectively — completely irresponsibly, not tethered to the truth,” O’Rourke said. “But if I don’t live in El Paso, if I haven’t had the experience that we have, if I live in Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, the northern border, I may not know any better . . . The president of the United States just said that there are rapists and criminals and murderers who will chop your head off coming to get us . . . And so I can see responding that way.”

Throughout the two-hour interview — which was often interrupted by bystanders urging him to run for president — O’Rourke boomeranged between a bright-eyed hope that the United States will soon dramatically change its approach to a whole host of issues and a dismal suspicion that the country is now incapable of implementing sweeping change.

When asked which it is, O’Rourke paused.

“I’m hesitant to answer it because I really feel like it deserves its due, and I don’t want to give you a — actually, just selfishly, I don’t want a sound bite of it reported, but, yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work?” O’Rourke said. “Can an empire like ours with military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships . . . and security agreements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?”

O’Rourke doesn’t yet know the answer, but he’s ready to discuss it.


Julián Castro’s 2020 Announcement Brightens Spotlight on Potential Texas Showdown with Beto O’Rourke

SAN ANTONIO — Lingering around after Julián Castro announced his presidential campaign here Saturday, Santa Garcia Rivera and her niece, Santa Garcia Reyes, said they were thrilled to see someone from the city’s hardscrabble West Side reach for the highest office in the country. But they also expressed some ambivalence as they sized up a potential 2020 presidential field that could include another Texas Democrat: Beto O’Rourke.

“It’s really tough,” said Garcia Reyes, a 45-year-old education specialist for Early Head Start. “I think they have a lot of the same values.”

Ultimately, Garcia Reyes said, “my loyalty is going to be to Julián… just seeing that he’s never forgot about the people here in San Antonio.” Her aunt, however, seemed less sure which Texan would end up earning her vote if they both run.

Such mixed feelings are not uncommon among Texas Democrats, who could end up with two of their own running in 2020. O’Rourke’s closer-than-expected loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz last year made him a national star, eclipsing Castro’s longtime status — along with his brother — as Texas Democrats’ best hope. Now, all eyes are on whether O’Rourke will ride the momentum to a 2020 bid of his own and officially test the loyalties of people like Garcia Rivera and her niece.

As O’Rourke’s 2020 buzz has intensified — with early polls showing him far outranking his fellow Texan — Castro has said there is enough room in the race for both of them. And both have said the other’s plans will not affect theirs.

All this is unfolding as delegate-rich Texas is poised to have considerable influence in the 2020 nominating process with its early March primary — a high-stakes moment if the two Texans make can it there.

O’Rourke does not appear to be in a rush to make a 2020 decision and is not expected to make one until February at the earliest. In the meantime, every move he makes is drawing intense attention — from the videos he has tweeted out arguing against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall to his Instagram posts Thursday from the dentist’s chair. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced Friday that she will interview O’Rourke on Feb. 5 in New York City, an event guaranteed to captivate the political world.

Castro and O’Rourke are not particularly close but have appeared friendly in public, and Castro and his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, joined O’Rourke on the campaign trail during the closing weeks of the U.S. Senate race. The brothers’ political paths also intersected with O’Rourke’s in the first few months of 2017, when Joaquin Castro mulled a U.S. Senate run at the same time O’Rourke did. Joaquin Castro ultimately passed on the Senate bid, announcing his decision about a month after O’Rourke launched his campaign.

Speaking before his brother Saturday, Joaquin Castro said there will be “a lot of great candidates” in the presidential race — many of them friends the brothers respect — “but I know we have the best candidate with the best ideas and the biggest heart.” Joaquin Castro told reporters afterward he was not concerned about a potential O’Rourke candidacy.

“All of the candidates who are going to enter this race — there’s something good about everybody, so [Julián]’s just gonna go and do the hard work of focusing on his vision and getting his message out to people,” Joaquin Castro said, “and we understand it’s a competition obviously and it’s a race, but you really can’t focus on what other people are doing.”

Asked what his message was for conflicted Texas Democrats, Joaquin Castro said, “I would ask them to follow their heart and their mind.”

Some Texas Democrats are not waiting on O’Rourke’s decision to give their unequivocal backing to Julián Castro. Among them is freshman state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, who was the first introductory speaker Saturday. Talarico recalled his experience teaching middle school on San Antonio’s West Side while Castro was the city’s mayor, pushing an education-centric agenda. In an interview afterward, Talarico said it was seeing Castro’s leadership “up close and personal in San Antonio” that led him to offer him his “full, complete endorsement for 2020.”

“I’m a huge fan of Congressman O’Rourke, he campaigned with me, his campaign was hugely helpful in our race, he would make an incredible president, but just my history has been with Secretary Castro,” Talarico said. “No matter who else runs, he’s gonna be my candidate.”

Talarico was joined in the lineup by a second state representative, Diego Bernal, a longtime friend of the Castros. And in another show of support among House Democrats, state Rep. Poncho Nevárez of Eagle Pass tweeted Friday that he was “all in” for Julián Castro.

Other Democrats are keeping their powder dry for now, reiterating how much of a net positive it is for Texas to have two Democrats in the 2020 mix.

“I grew up here and never in my lifetime has Texas been a battleground state,” said Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former congressional candidate from the Houston suburbs who attended Castro’s announcement. “Texas is a battleground state right now, and the energy, the excitement here — to see so many people coming out for a Texas Democrat running for president — that’s huge.”

Texas Democratic up-and-comers like Kulkarni face something of a conundrum when it comes to making a decision about who to support in 2020. Castro donated to their campaigns through his Opportunity First PAC and stumped for them. O’Rourke, meanwhile, gave them speaking time at his massively attended events and had an impact on their margins with his closer-than-expected loss at the top of the ticket.

Castro used his Opportunity First PAC to endorse over two dozen candidates last cycle in Texas, including the two biggest winners: Colin Allred, who unseated U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, and Lizzie Fletcher, who beat U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. Castro was especially involved with Allred, who worked under Castro at HUD, backing him early on in what became a crowded primary.

Allred has not shied away from Castro’s 2020 maneuvering in recent weeks, issuing a supportive statement when he formed an exploratory committee a month ago, sending a fundraising email for the committee and talking him up during a recent Sunday show appearance.

“Well, I certainly like my former boss, Julián Castro, who is a friend of mine and a mentor of mine,” Allred said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding, “we have a lot of political talent in Texas.”

For those trying to imagine what it would be like to have both Texas Democrats in the race, Castro’s Saturday announcement was instructive. He appeared to speak from a teleprompter, the lineup of introductory speakers was carefully curated to highlight his accomplishments and campaign surrogates were made available to the media afterward — all contrasts with the freewheeling, unvarnished style of O’Rourke’s 2018 U.S. Senate run.

To political observers, Julián Castro’s announcement speech invoked O’Rourke’s 2018 bid in at least one way: Castro vowed not to take campaign contributions from PACs, a hallmark of O’Rourke’s run. The promise, which Castro has been making for about a month now, was among the bigger applause lines as he spoke at the West Side’s historic Plaza Guadalupe.

Texas Republicans, for their part, were happy to stoke divisions between Castro and O’Rourke on Saturday. On a conference call with reporters before Castro’s announcement, Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said the soon-to-be candidate was “absolutely” grappling with having his spotlight stolen by O’Rourke.

“As someone who made it obvious for a long time that he felt like he had a right to go for the presidency, he’s got to be incredibly miffed at how quickly… the void of absence was filled during the last two years,” Dickey said.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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