In the midst of his tour around Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced that he is running for Ted Cruz’s spot in the U.S. Senate. He kicked off his campaign on April 1st in Austin. We went to his meet and greet at Scholz Garten with the same question everyone had, can he do it?
The outdoor beer garten at Scholz was absolutely packed on Saturday afternoon with energetic Texans, still fired up from the Women’s March and eager to hear what Beto had to offer for the future of our state and our country. I personally left with three take aways about Beto:
- He will make immigration a priority.
- He could be a uniting force in a very divided political climate.
- He is listening to the people.
1. Beto will make immigration a priority.
Being from El Paso, Beto knows all too well the struggles immigrants and their families face. In his speech he spoke in opposition of the wall, told the story of a courageous basketball team from a segregated Mexican-American high school after WWII, and he stressed the need for immigration reform.
Beto also bragged on the fact that El Paso, a border town with Mexico, is currently the safest city in the United States.
He presented himself as a defender of the underdog and it seems clear to me that Beto intends to retell and reframe the narrative that Texans and the rest of the United States have been hearing about border towns and immigrants. It’s a side of the story that needs to be heard on a national level.
He ended his speech with this enthusiastic message:
“Podemos esperar cuatro años hasta 2020 para la reforma migratoria. Podemos esperar para alguien diferente, en el futuro, para mejorar este estado, para mejorar el Senado, para mejorar nuestro país. O podemos empezar ahora, hoy, aquí, en Austin.”
Translation: We can wait four years until 2020 for immigration reform. We can wait for someone else, in the future, to improve this state, to improve the Senate, to improve our country. Or we can start now, today, here, in Austin.
2. Beto could be a uniting force in a very divided political climate.
After immigration, the next biggest issue Beto discussed on Saturday was Veterans rights to healthcare, and specifically mental health access. He showed that he understands the importance of reaching across the aisle when he talked about a bipartisan bill that he has filed to make mental healthcare accessible to veterans with other than honorable discharge.
In addition to showing bipartisanship between democrats and republicans, I also saw Beto as someone who may be able bridge a divide that has been immerging within the democratic party. Beto stressed that he will not take any campaign money from PACs or special interest groups and that he intends the work for the people. He stated that he is one of only two members of congress to do this. I think we all know who that other member of congress is but to give you a hint… The average contribution to his 2016 campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton was $27.
3. Beto is listening to the people.
I’d say the biggest theme in Beto’s speech Saturday is that he is a candidate ready to listen to and work for the people.
After his speech Beto greeted attendees. He did not simply shake hands and take pictures but actually talked and listened to each person he met.
While his speech touched on many important issues, I noticed there was no mention of Women’s Rights or Women’s Healthcare. So when I shook his hand (he had a great hand shake) I said “I hope you have some plans for protecting Women’s Rights.”
I saw he was a bit taken back from my statement as he admitted to me that he is still learning about the struggles women in Texas face. He shared with me that he had just learned earlier that day that Texas has the highest maternal death rate in the country.
It was encouraging to see that though he may not be an expert on women’s issues at the moment, he is willing and eager to learn.
(Melissa Fiero, Beto O’Rourke, Mindy Vescovo, and Simone Laurent)
So, will Beto knock Cruz from his seat in the senate? That’s up to you, Marchers.
We definitely look forward to following Beto’s campaign and hearing more of his plans.