With the Texas Capitol as his backdrop, former Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke greeted a crowd of thousands Saturday night in Austin to officially launch his bid for president.
“This democracy right now is badly compromised, and we must entail to fix this democracy,” O’Rourke said. “A full political democracy only becomes possible with the vigorous pursuit of economic democracy … opportunity (must) be shared with all.”
O’Rourke’s Austin rally was the final of three stops on Saturday, which began in his hometown of El Paso followed by Houston. He announced his presidential bid on March 13 via text to an El Paso TV station after being viewed as a possible contender for the Democratic nomination ever since he lost the 2018 U.S. Senate race to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.
At the rally Saturday evening, O’Rourke brought up some of his main platform points, such as lowering the influence of political action committees and lobbyists in politics, debt-free higher education, universal health care, providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers and legalizing marijuana.
“We have our work cut out for us because if we continue on this trajectory, we will be a democracy in name only,” O’Rourke said of reducing the influence of money in politics. “It’s going to take all of us.”
The former U.S. Congressman for El Paso was introduced by Austin mayor Steve Adler and local Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, who represents most of the UT campus.
“Beto believed in us before we even believed in ourselves,” said Hinojosa, referencing his 2018 Senate campaign that followed major Democratic losses across the country in 2016. “And that’s what sets him apart.”
Both Adler and Hinojosa referenced the possibility of Texas being a battleground state in 2020. It’s unclear at the moment if that will become reality. However, the bigger issue, experts told The Daily Texan last month, is the very likely possibility that the Republican party will need to spend money on the presidential campaign in Texas, which is practically unheard of in the past few decades.
Currently, O’Rourke is running third-highest in popularity, according to a recent poll, among Democrats at 12%, with former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ahead of him at 29% and 19%, respectively.
O’Rourke was the closest of any Democrat in decades of winning a statewide race in Texas, coming within 3 points of Cruz. But O’Rourke, who only gained national attention after his Senate race, will be competing against nearly 20 others, if not more, for the Democratic nomination.
Government junior Benjamin Berg, who attended the rally, said O’Rourke is not his number one candidate at the moment, but he really liked O’Rourke’s immigration policies and his ability to connect with centrist voters, an essential part of presidential campaigns, especially in battleground states. Berg also said he appreciated seeing Texans run for president. Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a former Obama administration official, announced his presidential bid in January.
“There needs to be more Texans running,” Berg said. “He does a good job already representing Texas values … (and), he genuinely listens to what people have to say.”
If O’Rourke wins the nomination, he would be the first Democrat from Texas to do so since 1964 when Lyndon Baines Johnson ran for president and won.
“We will not be defined by our fears, by our differences,” O’Rourke said at the rally. “Our ability to campaign in this way, to bring people together … not only can ensure we can win the nomination, not only ensures that we can defeat Donald Trump, it means that we can … fulfill this country’s priorities.”