O’Rourke and Castro host competing events following first round of debates

Victoria May

Following the first two Democratic debates of the 2020 election cycle last week, presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro both hosted events in Austin to promote their campaigns.

Castro spoke at a state party fundraiser Friday in downtown Austin. The former San Antonio mayor commended voters for their increased support after last week’s debate and talked about his campaign policies, touching on immigration, women’s rights and free public tuition for public universities.

“A few months ago, they were writing me up as the ‘other Texan,’” Castro said at the event, in reference to being seen as the underdog when compared to O’Rourke. “But that is no more. I am the Texan.”

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released in June, 15% of Texas Democrats were in support of O’Rourke, while 3% showed support for Castro.

“Going into the debate, it was clear I needed to introduce myself to a lot of folks that hadn’t heard about me before because my name ID was lower than some of the other candidates,” Castro said at the event. “I wanted to make sure people knew who I was and what I was about.”

Castro said he had gained about 16,000 new donors since the debate.

“I would say probably 85% of the people who are here are new to a campaign event of mine,” Castro said at the event. “So we’re drawing in a lot of new voters, a lot of people that want to know what I’m about … What I did on Wednesday night was that I earned more of these cameras that are here. I earned more eyeballs on this campaign.”

On the same night, less than a mile away at Scholz Garten, O’Rourke met with voters and encouraged them to head to the polls throughout the election season.

O’Rourke, a former U.S. Congressman from El Paso who ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat last year, spent the majority of his 30-minute meet and greet talking about immigration issues — namely the conditions of detention facilities used to house migrant children.

“Those kids, even if they are siblings, are not allowed to touch each other,” O’Rourke said at the event. “Imagine that. You’re suffering, not knowing if and when you will see your folks again … and you’re walking in single file line, in a uniform they gave you, and there’s your brother, walking in the opposite direction. You are punished if you acknowledge him or touch him or have any kind of human contact with him.”

O’Rourke has been criticized for saying during last week’s debate that, unlike Castro, he does not support repealing a law that criminalizes unauthorized border crossings. At his rally Friday, he assured the crowd that he supports different policies that would achieve the same goal.

He also praised voters for their turnout during the 2018 congressional elections and encouraged them to keep the same momentum in 2020.

“At the end of the day, though we did not defeat Ted Cruz, we won more votes than any Democrat in the history of the State of Texas,” O’Rourke said at the event. “It’ll take a movement like the one we started here in Texas, like the one that we led together, to defeat Donald Trump, to bring this divided country back together again, and to make sure that we confront the greatest set of challenges that this country has ever faced.”