2020 Presidential Race

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke discusses DWI, term limits

At the closing keynote of the Texas Tribune Festival, the Senate hopeful said the police report of his 1998 drunk driving arrest is incorrect and reaffirmed his commitment to not seek higher office if elected.

Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Beto O'Rourke speaks at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Sept. 29, 2018.
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Beto O'Rourke speaks at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Sept. 29, 2018.  Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
The 2018 Texas Tribune Festival

More than 300 leading figures in politics, public policy and journalism are joining thousands of Texans at The 2018 Texas Tribune Festival to discuss big-picture solutions to pressing policy issues. 

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U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, maintained Saturday night that he did not flee the scene of a 1998 drinking and driving incident, a contradiction of a police report filed at the time.

“I did not flee,” he told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the closing keynote of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “The police report on this count is wrong."

O'Rourke added: “I reached out to the passenger who was in the car that I was driving — who also does not appear in the police report, among other factual errors — somebody that I’ve not spoken to in more than 15 years, and asked her recollection of that evening. She said, ‘No, we were in the median of the road. We did not try to flee. I don’t know that there was anywhere we could have gone.’”

During the wide-ranging conversation, O'Rourke, who is running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, also reiterated his commitment to not seek higher office should he be elected to the Senate. He said that while he has been on the campaign trail, most of the responsibility for raising his three children has fallen to his wife, Amy O'Rourke, and that “our kids need us to be a family.” He also said he would limit himself to a maximum of two terms.

One-on-one interview with Beto O'Rourke at Texas Tribune Festival 2018.

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O'Rourke accused Cruz — whom he repeatedly refused to address by name, instead referring to him as "the junior senator from Texas" — of running a "cynical" campaign rooted in fear.

After repeatedly making headlines for eclipsing the incumbent in money raised for his campaign, O'Rourke declined to give a firm answer on his fundraising total in the third quarter of this year, which ends Sunday.

“I honestly don’t know, but it’s a lot,” he said.

O'Rourke ended the night by appearing before a massive crowd at Auditorium Shores, an Austin concert venue, where country music legend Willie Nelson headlined a show for the candidate.

“Let tonight be a message to the future," O'Rourke said. "Let them know who we are, what we believe in and what we are willing to do to accomplish our goals. Let them know that we believe in this country, let them know that we believe we can come together and do great things for this country, and let them know that we believe that Texas can lead the way.”

O'Rourke went on to tell supporters they've "never been so close, but it's on all of us." He encouraged them to get registered to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline — there were 250 voter registrars at the event — and be prepared to cast an early ballot when the period begins Oct. 22.

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Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.