Beto (BET-oh) O’Rourke, in announcing his candidacy, described the upcoming campaign as “a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.” He added, “The interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater,” and that the U.S. – now more than ever – is “the last great hope of Earth.”
Accomplishments: After graduating from Columbia University, O’Rourke worked in New York for a few years before moving back to his hometown of El Paso, where he started a small technology company. He ran for El Paso City Council in 2005 and served for two terms before running for U.S. Congress in 2012, taking on an eight-term incumbent and winning. O’Rourke then set his sights on a Senate seat in 2018, narrowly losing in the conservative state to incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
Foreign policy: While in Congress, O’Rourke served on the House Armed Services Committee, a key national security committee. He supported the Iran-nuclear deal struck by the Obama administration and said Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement weakened the United States. O’Rourke was one of two Democrats in the U.S. House in 2015 to vote in opposition to a bill condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He defends his vote, saying did not want the United States drawn into another global conflict that could lead to war.
What sets him apart: O’Rourke generated considerable enthusiasm for his presidential run during his underdog 2018 Senate race in Texas, where he ran a high-energy, upbeat campaign and went from a largely unknown politician to a star in Democratic circles. O’Rourke lost the Senate race by 3 percentage points and the narrow defeat was seen by many as an accomplishment in a state where a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in 25 years. His campaign was unorthodox in many ways, including his shunning of consultants, his refusal to take donations from outside political groups while raising $80 million, and his live-streaming of much of his campaign on Facebook. O’Rourke is a fourth-generation Irish-American who speaks fluent Spanish.
Platform: O’Rourke is seen as a centrist in a field of mostly liberal candidates and was part of the centrist New Democrat Coalition during his time in Congress. He is calling for “guaranteed” universal health care, decisive actions to combat the effects of climate change and an end to the federal government’s prohibition on the use of marijuana. He is also highlighting criminal justice reform and ending U.S. involvement in wars as his priorities. He is a longtime supporter of abortion rights, champions more gun restrictions, and has advocated against a wall on the southern border.