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U.S. Senate candidate and Congressman Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, talks about his 34-day tour of Texas in a Facebook video. | Photo courtesy Facebook screenshot

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke on 34-Day Road Trip in Underdog Senate Bid

Looking to overcome the long odds in his U.S. Senate campaign, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, has hit the road for an aggressive 34-day tour of Texas.

O’Rourke launched the trip without much fanfare at the end of last month, when he flew to San Antonio and bought a new truck for the trip. He does not plan to return home to El Paso until Aug. 31, when he’s due for a monthly town hall with his constituents.

No other candidate is currently campaigning across Texas quite as aggressively.

“I want to do this as hard as I can and make every effort to meet every Texan as possible,” O’Rourke said in an interview Thursday. In a state as large as Texas, he added, such an itinerary is the “only way you’re going to have any hope of meeting the people that you want to represent.”

O’Rourke’s campaign has a name for the trip: “Town Hauling Across Texas.”

The trip, much of which O’Rourke has been livestreaming on his Facebook page, has already taken him to the Rio Grande Valley, Far West Texas and the Panhandle. In those places, he has held traditional campaign events such as town halls and meet and greets, as well as less-formal activities — such as block walking Thursday in Wichita Falls.

Over the next week, he’s set to hit North Texas and East Texas, with stops planned after that in Houston, College Station, Waco, Victoria, LaGrange, San Angelo, Midland, Odessa and Abilene.

It’s an intense pace of campaigning more than a year out from the November election, but it also reflects the work required if O’Rourke wants to stand a chance against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The state has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in over two decades.

O’Rourke has had some early success, though. He outraised Cruz by half a million dollars in the second quarter and has drawn big crowds in some of the reddest areas in the state — almost 500 people turned out for an event he did Tuesday in Amarillo, according to local media.

Both Cruz and O’Rourke have August off for the congressional recess. Cruz, who is running for re-election but has not made an official campaign announcement yet, visited East Texas on Friday in his capacity as a U.S. senator, making stops at two local businesses and a junior college.

As he travels the state, O’Rourke said he is encountering community leaders who tell him they haven’t had the same level of outreach from the incumbent in Cruz’s four and a half years in office. “They haven’t seen him,” O’Rourke said.

A Cruz spokesperson did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas Democrats may not have a full statewide slate yet, but they are seeing early and intense interest in several congressional races. [Full story]
  • Ahead of his 2018 bid for re-election, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has an imposing war chest collected through three allied groups. [Full story]
  • No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly 30 years or any statewide office since 1994.  But U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is optimistic he can break the streak, in part by eschewing consultants, pollsters and PAC money. [Full story]

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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