Beto O’Rourke, a Texas candidate for U.S. Senator, spent the majority of the day in the Southern Sector of Dallas, Aug. 26. O’Rourke is from El Paso and prefers to be called by his first name. Since announcing his candidacy, he has visited the entire state of Texas, traveling to all 254 counties – speaking with people from small towns and large cities, talking to anyone who would listen to him.
That Sunday, he started his morning by attending the 8 a.m. worship service at Concord Baptist Church, accompanied by Sen. Royce West and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. After the morning service, O’Rourke and West visited St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, where he attended the Good News Sunday School Class followed by the 11 a.m. worship service. At St. Luke, he was accompanied by West, and State Rep. Helen Giddings.
During each service, O’Rourke respectfully stayed until the worship services ended. Additionally, he spent an hour in the Good News class answering questions. The class meets for three hours and it is a practice for this class to invite candidates running for elected office to spend one hour with them.
He responded to a question about his experiences that make him eligible to run for U.S. senator.
O’Rourke said he was born and raised in El Paso – a community that has been forgotten, no one ever asked their our opinion. He said he was a small-business owner of a technology company that he started with friends. The company created high quality, high wage, highly skilled jobs for people in El Paso. He served on the El Paso City Council for three years. For the past six years, he has served in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has been married for 13 years and has three children – all being educated in public schools.
When asked how he is going to reach young voters, he said candidates must show up. That’s why he goes to college campuses to meet with young people. He has been to several colleges in the state, including Paul Quinn, and will go to others before Election Day, Nov. 6. Turn out at college campuses has been extraordinary.
“We will continue to show up,” O’Rourke said, as he emphasized he was running to represent all Texans.
O’Rourke acknowledged the disparities that exist in health care, the criminal justice system, education, the workforce and other economic opportunities. He said the weight of the law is falling on some more than others. He pledged that if elected, he would work to alleviate many of the disparities that exist.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis shared with him, he recalled, that whatever ship we arrived in – some of us came in bondage, some on the Mayflower – today we are all in the same boat.
O’Rourke mentioned he was recently in Harris County and learned that the Harris County jail – with 10,000 inmates – is the largest provider of mental health care services in the state of Texas. Many of the inmates arrested have been diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia or major depression and are given medication while at the jail.
Texas is the least insured state in the United States. He said the state would be better if people were able to get the health care they need and become gainfully employed thus able to take care of their families.
He discussed the schoolteacher who died from complication related to the flu in Weatherford and a young man who died of diabetes before the age of 40. People get so sick and eventually take themselves to the emergency room, he said. But when they do, the outcome will not be as good, thus costing more money to the state.
African Americans have been historically incarcerated disproportionately more than other races because of marijuana use, even though they are not the only race that uses marijuana, he said, insisting that America needed to end it “war on drugs.”
He was then asked whether he had enough money to run against Ted Cruz?
O’Rourke revealed that he is not taking money from PACS, corporate PACS or the Sierra Club, be cause he never wants a person he represents to wonder who he is really representing. He doesn’t want people wandering, who he is writing legislation for, who he is voting on behalf of, or who he is answering phone calls from. Therefore, he is not taking money from special interest groups.
Yet, surprisingly, he has still been able to raise money for his campaign.
“Last three months Ted Cruz was able to raise $4.4 million, we raised $10.4 million,” O’Rourke reassured the group. “So we will have the funds needed.”
His average donation is $33.00 from 250,714 unique donations. During his campaigning and fundraising, he spends much of his time talking to people at town hall meetings. He stated that would still be as accessible if elected to congress.
“We were in Brownwood, Texas – in a rural community – and a lady stood up and said she was born with a 22 in her hand and owns a ranch,” he shared. “But she said she has 30 grandchildren and she wanted to know if I would stand up to the NRA, support universal background checks because her grandchildren’s safety is important to her.”
The group also asked him questions about “taking a knee.”
“Our country is the greatest country on earth,” he began his answer as he shared a story about the Freedom Riders and others who fought for the freedoms U.S. citizens have in this country. “Many lost their lives for these freedoms. In the face of Black men being killed by police – taking a knee to call attention to the injustices in this country – there is nothing more American.”
Afterward, he went to South Dallas Café for a soul food lunch. Patrons in the café seemed overwhelmed to see him.
Later, he met with members of Texas Publishers Association, an organization of Black-owned and operated newspapers in the state, at The Dallas Examiner office in South Dallas. In addition to publishers from Dallas, publishers from Austin, Abilene and East Texas came to the meeting with O’Rourke. He also assured the publishers that if elected he would be accessible.