By Thomas Holmes
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. O’Rourke raised over $6 million in the 24 hours after announcing his campaign on March 14. He became a national sensation after his race against Ted Cruz for U.S. Senator of Texas.
Robert O’Rourke was born and raised in El Paso, Texas where, at a young age, he was given the nickname “Beto” by his family. He attended Columbia University in New York where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English.
Beto was elected Representative of Texas’ 16th Congressional District in 2012. He campaigned in the largely Hispanic district (El Paso is over 80% Hispanic/Latino) mainly on foot, personally knocking on over 16,000 doors, according to one report by Texas Monthly.
O’Rourke was re-elected to the Congress in 2014 and again in 2016. In March of 2017, He announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate, despite the fact that no Democrat has held statewide power in Texas in the past 24 years. One year after, in March of 2018, Beto O’Rourke won the Democratic nomination for Senate.
Due to the fact that Texas has long been a red state, O’Rourke was at a severe disadvantage from the start. Regardless of his moderate standpoints on many policies, his label of Democrat, in the deeply conservative state of Texas, was no asset. His stubborn refusal of any support from Political Action Committees (PACs) meant that most of his campaign relied on small donations.
Beto lost to Cruz in the race, but his unexpected ability to rally voters proved his competency as a politician. He also proved that he was able to excite young voters and get them active in politics.
O’Rourke’s policies tend to fall in line with many moderate Democrats. He tends to agree with his fellow Democrats on social issues such as gun regulation, immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights, and environmental issues, but he is more fiscally conservative. While he was in the Congress, Beto was part of the “New Democrat Coalition,” a group of pro-business, capitalist Democrats.
One of Beto’s biggest talking points is immigration reform. Being from El Paso, a city many regard as more Mexico than Texas, O’Rourke is very aware of the immigrant situation on the southern U.S.-Mexico border.
“Fewer places have more to lose or gain based on what we do (regarding DACA) than Texas,” Beto told the El Paso Times. “El Paso should be the leader; we are the Ellis Island of much of the world.”
Beto has gained a national stage through his groundbreaking, grassroots campaign for Texas Senator. His strong presence on social media also helped capture the attention of many young voters.