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Home | Tag Archives: o’rourke

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Texas has 254 Counties. Beto O’Rourke Campaigned Against Ted Cruz in Each of Them

After tens of thousands of miles on the road, hundreds of town hall meetings and innumerable cups of coffee, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke made the final stop on his much-ballyhooed tour of all 254 Texas counties on Saturday, visiting Gainesville in his continuing bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz this fall.

Over the last 15 months, O’Rourke’s county-by-county driving tour has taken him all over the state, from his hometown of El Paso on the Mexican border to Cooke County in the north, where he held a town hall on Saturday afternoon.

“Here we are in Gainesville, which, as the crow flies, might be the farthest point you can get from El Paso,” he said to laughter from a packed house in the historic Santa Fe train depot.

The tour represents more than just an expansive retail campaign across the largest state in mainland America. It also marks a dramatic deviation from the political playbook employed by the majority of Texas Democrats over the last two decades.

“Since 1998, what we’ve seen is the triangle — they go to Houston, Dallas, and Austin and San Antonio. They’ll do one swing through the Valley and one trip through El Paso,” said Colin Strother, a longtime Democratic strategist in Texas. “That’s not how we’re going to energize our own voters, educate new voters, and it’s not how we’re going to win. What’s exciting and refreshing about Beto’s approach is that he’s going to go campaign everywhere.”

The county-by-county tour started in March 2017, when O’Rourke kicked off his campaign with a rooftop rally in El Paso. “Beto said, ‘We are going to all of the counties,’ and some of us said, ‘Are we really?’” said Chris Evans, the campaign’s spokesman. “But we have been.”

Fueled by five cups of coffee a day, O’Rourke does about 80 percent of the driving himself, in a maroon Dodge Grand Caravan, Evans said. The candidate and his staffers subsist on a steady diet of trail mix, beef jerky and Hostess Cupcakes.

When he’s not behind the wheel, O’Rourke has proven to be a formidable fundraiser, regularly outperforming his more famous opponent. In the first quarter of 2018, he raised $6.7 million, more than any other Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate raised over the same period. But his performance in the Democratic primary in March was disappointing: Even as he coasted to a 38-point victory over challenger Selma Hernandez, O’Rourke lost several key counties along the Mexican border to the Houston activist. And a Quinnipiac University poll released last month found Cruz leading O’Rourke by 11 percentage points.

“Our campaign is based not on an arbitrary travel data point like our opponent’s, but on a vision and message that we believe Texans desire and want to see from their leaders,” said Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz.

The publicity generated by the statewide tour has helped O’Rourke, who entered the race as a little-known congressman, gain valuable exposure to Texas voters, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University. But the 254-county tour is ultimately just “a gimmick,” Jones said.

“Once you go beyond the top 100 counties, it’s not an especially efficient use of your time,” he said. “There are counties that have entire populations that are dwarfed by neighborhoods in Houston and Dallas and San Antonio and Austin.”

Still, Democrats hope that O’Rourke’s grassroots campaign will generate enthusiasm in red counties, leading to higher voter turnout and narrower margins of defeat there, said Strother, the Democratic strategist.

“I’ve seen pictures of him in Tyler County in east Texas. It’s the reddest of red counties, and based on the pictures I’ve seen he probably had 30 people there,” Strother said. “I’ve done campaigns a lot in east Texas, and I’ve never seen 30 Democrats in Tyler County. I didn’t know there were that many.”

Over the years, Cooke County has also been unfriendly to Democrats. In 2016, President Donald Trump won here with 83 percent of the vote. Cruz earned an almost identical portion of the county’s vote when he ran for Senate in 2012. At the town hall, however, O’Rourke chose to dwell on a different element of the county’s political history: Former president Harry Truman’s visit to Gainesville in 1948, in the run-up to his upset victory over Republican challenger Thomas Dewey.

“This country was not built on fear. This country was built on courage,” O’Rourke said, invoking Truman’s famous words.

Supporters acknowledge that O’Rourke remains a long-shot candidate, even in a political climate that might be favorable to Trump’s opponents. A Democrat has not won statewide office in Texas in nearly a quarter-century. Despite O’Rourke’s recent fundraising success, Jones cautioned, the candidate will have to accumulate significantly more money to compete with Cruz in November. And his campaign is unlikely to receive much financial support from the national party, which has prioritized a handful of Senate races in places where Democrats are more likely to succeed and statewide races are less expensive to run.

O’Rourke is not the first Texas politician to visit all 254 counties. When he ran for attorney general in the late 1980s, Democrat John Odam visited every county courthouse in the state in an effort to “listen and learn about the issues that were on people’s mind.”

In 1995, he published a book about his 254-county tour, “Courtin’ Texas: One Candidate’s Travels Through Texas’ 254 Counties & Their Courthouses,” which documents 18 months of grueling travel along the state’s highways — a physically taxing road trip, even for a candidate with four marathons under his belt.

“We’d go to the courthouse, go to a breakfast meeting, go to the next county and have a lunch meeting, and then keep on driving, keep on covering the state,” Odam recalled. “I know this sounds pretty naive and pretty elementary — but Texas is a damn big state.”

When the election came around, Odam lost by eight percentage points.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: DAVID YAFFE-BELLANY – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz to Report Raising Less than Half of What Beto O’Rourke Raised this Year

When U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his latest fundraising haul earlier this month – a stunning $6.7 million – it was widely expected to surpass what his rival, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, brought in over the same period. Now it’s clear by how much: roughly $3.5 million.

Cruz raised $3.2 million in the first three months of this year, according to his campaign.

O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, did not outpace just Cruz – he posted one of the top quarterly federal fundraising hauls ever, outside of presidential campaigns. If not for O’Rourke’s large sum, Cruz’s fundraising would be considered robust for any incumbent seeking re-election.

In tallying Cruz’s numbers, his team takes into account three groups: Ted Cruz for Senate, a re-election campaign committee; the Jobs, Freedom, and Security PAC, a leadership PAC; and Ted Cruz Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that sends contributions to the re-election campaign and his leadership PAC. O’Rourke, who only has a single campaign account, has sworn off PAC money.

Cruz’s re-election campaign fund alone raised $2.7 million. The rest of the $3.2 million was raised via his leadership PAC and his joint fundraising committee. Cruz’s campaign will report having $8.2 million on hand across all three groups. Late Friday, O’Rourke’s campaign announced it “now has more than $8 million on hand.”

Since his plans to vacate his U.S. House seat in a bid to unseat Cruz a year ago, O’Rourke has frequently outpaced Cruz on the hard-dollar fundraising front. But Cruz also has a network of aligned groups that will spend on his behalf in the race.

He is also expected to have massive super PAC support in the fall. O’Rourke, meanwhile, has publicly asked super PACs to not help him in the race.

Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. But O’Rourke’s campaign has excited Democrats around the country, in part due to his ability to draw large crowds around Texas, including in some conservative strongholds.

Yet the enthusiasm behind O’Rourke’s bid remains perplexing to some national political observers. While repeatedly outraising an incumbent helps a challenger signal that their campaign in viable, most political insiders say privately if not publicly that Cruz remains in a strong position to win re-election.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Authors: ABBY LIVINGSTON AND PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Braces Texas GOP for Volatile Election Season Amid Democratic Enthusiasm

NEW BRAUNFELS — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is preparing Texas Republicans for a turbulent election year amid super-charged Democratic enthusiasm — including in his own re-election campaign.

Traveling the state for GOP events this weekend, Cruz portrayed an uncertain midterm environment that could go down as disastrous for Republicans if they don’t work to counteract Democratic energy throughout the country.

Cruz has spent previous election cycles airing similar warnings against GOP complacency in ruby-red Texas, but this time it hits much closer to home for him — he is facing a well-funded re-election challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

Addressing the Fort Bend County GOP on Friday night, Cruz warned of an “incredible volatility in politics right now,” calling Democrats “stark-raving nuts” in their opposition to Trump. He pointed to Trump’s recent State of the Union address and Democrats’ reluctance to applaud, saying the scene “underscores the political risk in November.”

“Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up,” Cruz said, delivering the keynote address at the party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner. “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

Cruz is feeling the heat in his own bid for a second term. O’Rourke, who has sworn off money from political action committees, outraised Cruz in the last three months of 2017, $2.4 million to $1.9 million. It was the second quarter in which O’Rourke’s haul was bigger than that of Cruz, who still maintains a healthy cash-on-hand advantage.

Speaking with reporters here Saturday afternoon, Cruz said he was “absolutely” prepared for his re-election campaign but also acknowledged O’Rourke’s fundraising prowess.

“It’s true my Democratic opponent is raising a lot of money,” Cruz said. “We’re not going to take it for granted. That’s a manifestation of the energy on the extreme left.”

Cruz spoke with reporters after headlining a rally for his former chief of staff, Chip Roy, who is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio. Roy — one of 18 GOP candidates in that race — started off his remarks at the rally not by discussing his congressional bid but by issuing his own warning about the Democratic push to flip red seats this year, saying it’s “real — it’s a real effort.”

“I want to talk about my election in just a minute — but we’ve got to send Sen. Cruz back with a mandate,” Roy said. “There’s nothing more than the left and frankly the establishment — on both side of the aisle in Washington, D.C. — would like more than to try to bloody up Sen. Cruz after what he has done over the last six years.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cornyn, Cruz, Hurd, O’Rourke Comment on Passage of American Health Care Act

After Thursday’s passage of the American Health Care Act, local and statewide representatives released statements regarding the vote.

Rep. Beto O’Rouke (via Facebook)

Today I voted against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Like the original version of the bill, which failed to garner enough support for a vote in March, AHCA seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a system of tax credits and Medicaid block grants.

In the March version of the bill we knew that:

– 81,000 fewer El Pasoans would have health care

– 2.5 million fewer Texans would have health care

– 24 million fewer Americans would have health care

– Americans would see premium increases of 15–20% in 2018 and 2019

– Millions of veterans not enrolled in the VA would lose health care

– Fewer resources would be available to combat the opioid crisis

– There would be no requirement for mental health parity

– Women’s reproductive health would be defunded

The most notable changes to this version of the bill are two amendments. First, the McArthur Amendment, which allows states to determine the minimum coverage in the health care plans they offer. Currently, the ACA requires insurers to cover a host of essential health benefits like hospital stays, mental health, and maternity care. This amendment will allow insurers to consider health status when setting prices. This will directly impact patients with pre-existing conditions and older Americans who will be charged more for coverage.

The second amendment is the Upton Amendment. It adds $8 billion over 5 years to the bill to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for their insurance and health care needs. Unfortunately that is nowhere near enough and if implemented many people will soon find it difficult to pay for their health care needs.

There has been no updated analysis of this new version of the bill because it was rushed through without an official score from the Congressional Budget Office.

I voted against the bill which passed the House by a vote of 217-213. It now goes to the Senate where it meets an uncertain fate.

Rep. Will Hurd

“Since the implementation of Obamacare, I’ve told my constituents that the only meaningful metric when it comes to healthcare is actual access to quality, affordable care – not just health insurance. While the goal of Obamacare was to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable, it has done just the opposite. Likewise, while the goal of the American Health Care Act was to combat the skyrocketing premiums and outrageous deductibles millions of Americans face, it too, falls short.

“We must provide relief, but unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in its current form does not address the concerns of many of my constituents, including adequate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers. I am unable to turn my back on these vulnerable populations because I believe we can and must do better for the American people.

“I will not support the AHCA in its current form and hope that we can continue making improvements to fix our broken healthcare system.”

Sen. John Cornyn

“Today is an important step forward in upholding our promise to give the American people relief from Obamacare,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The health care status quo is unacceptable. Premiums have skyrocketed, coverage options have disappeared, and small businesses have struggled under crushing taxes and mandates. Working alongside the Administration, making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans will continue to be our top priority and this legislation sets us on a course to achieve that.”

Sen. Ted Cruz

“Today was an important step. I am encouraged that House Republicans were able to come together and pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House Freedom Caucus pressed hard to reduce premiums and make health care more affordable, and their efforts, in cooperation with the entire conference, substantially improved this bill.

“Our work now goes forward in the Senate, where we should continue to improve the bill. For many weeks, I have been working closely with my Senate colleagues, from across the ideological spectrum, on consensus reforms to make health insurance more affordable. We must deliver on that promise. I am optimistic we will get the job done, and honor our commitment to provide more choices for consumers, put people in control of their healthcare, and most importantly, lower premiums.”

Video: Rep. O’Rourke “We do not Need a Wall on our Southern Border”

Congressman Beto O’Rourke took to the floor of the House Tuesday night to challenge the notion that the nation needs a wall and that the border is dangerous.

Citing immigration numbers showing more Mexican Nationals returning to Mexico rather than coming to the, US and lauding the efforts of Border Patrol agents, O’Rourke passionately defended the border and El Paso.

Video is courtesy Congressman O’Rourke’s Facebook Page

 

After meeting Families at Border, US Servicemen at Bliss, O’Rourke to Host Town Hall

El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke will cap off a busy week in the Borderland with a town hall meeting on Monday.

Last week Rep. O’Rourke made his way back to El Paso to attend two very important events, one in the middle of the Rio Grande and the other at Fort Bliss.

O’Rourke was on hand as families from both sides of the border were reunited – for a brief 3 minutes – at the international border,  in the middle of the channel that contains the Rio Grande. In the mud-lined riverbed, families hugged prayed and shared their stories. Many at the event had not seen their family members in years.

“This was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of. I’m grateful to the Border Network for Human Rights for organizing it and to the Border Patrol for facilitating it,” O’Rourke stated.

He added, “This is why we need to fix our immigration system. These families prove that we don’t have to be afraid of Mexico, of Mexicans, or of immigrants. They prove that we need to stop separating each other. We don’t need walls. We need to be good to each other, treat each other with dignity, and realize each person and every family has value and is valuable to us as a country.”

Photo courtesy Rep. O'Rourke's office.
Photo courtesy Rep. O’Rourke’s office.

O’Rourke also visited Fort Bliss, that just concluded their first first Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA).

During the military exercise, the Army puts new technology in the hands of soldiers for testing, who then get to make suggestions on how to improve equipment and help decide if it should go in the field for the entire Army.

“When we send our soldiers to war it should be with the best possible equipment, that is the idea behind the Army Warfighting Assessment,” O’Rourke said, “I’m grateful for the work of Major General Pat White, Major General Terrence McKenrick who leads the Brigade Modernization Command, the men and women who serve under them, and units from our partner nations who helped make AWA a success.”

Now O’Rourke hosts his town hall on Monday, November 7th, at the El Paso Public Library Dorris Van Doren Branch (551 E Redd Rd) from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  

O’Rourke welcomes residents to the town hall so that, in his words, “residents can get an update on my work, take questions, suggestions and ideas on how I can do a better job.”

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