Watch: A conversation with Beto O'Rourke, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
We livestreamed our conversation in Waco with U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Watch the full video, or check out our recap.
In a conversation with The Texas Tribune, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said his campaign for U.S. Senate is more focused on positive changes than opposition to particular policies or candidates.
The conversation took place a few hours after O’Rourke’s campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said it raised $6.7 million in the first quarter of 2018. O’Rourke said everyday Texans are funding his campaign, and that 70 percent of the money raised came from inside the state. Cruz hasn’t released his fundraising numbers yet.
But does competitive fundraising mean he could win? High fundraising numbers don’t mean O’Rourke is a safe bet for the seat. In 2014, Wendy Davis – Democratic candidate for governor against Republican Greg Abbott – raised a lot of money, but still lost badly. O’Rourke said his race is different because of his campaign methods and the national political environment.
“She did not have the benefit of this year. … We have never seen this level of urgency, this level of motivation, the intensity and the passion,” O’Rourke said. “We’re running a very different campaign, and we’re different people.”
He said going to rural communities that candidates don’t typically visit also sets him apart.
Not running against something, but for something. Texas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1988. O’Rourke said his campaign could change that. But he said he’s focusing on what he hopes to improve:
Bipartisanship: There needs to be an increased focus on bipartisanship, O’Rourke said. One area that calls for cross-aisle politics is gun regulations. The Second Amendment shouldn’t be repealed, O’Rourke said. Instead, he said he thinks there needs to be reforms like bans on high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and assault rifles.
Broadband internet: About half the state doesn’t have access to reliable internet, according to O’Rourke. He said this makes it hard for Texans to finish their educations online and find jobs.
Public education: Schools across Texas, he said, are having different rates of success, depending on the amount of state investment. He pointed to rural schools as being especially vulnerable to a lack of funding. He added school vouchers, which send public education funding to private or charter schools, will exacerbate problems.
But if he was running against something, what would it be? After some prodding from The Texas Tribune’s CEO Evan Smith, O’Rourke mentioned there are some facets of politics on the national and state level that he’s against, although he still didn’t name Cruz by name. The most notable? He said the president and Cruz are trying to scare Texans.
“They want you to be afraid of Mexicans,” he said. “When they call them rapists and criminals, and say only a wall will keep them out.”
He said those sentiments are “bullshit,” and added that the border is the safest it has been in his lifetime. O’Rourke said instead of building a wall, he’d advocate for stepping up security at ports of entry, where the majority of illegal drugs come in.
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