The rising star of the Democratic Party, a 40-something former congressman, has announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election.
He joins Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren as well as Kamala Harris, and as a Democratic candidate running in the 2020 presidential primaries, 46-year-old Beto O’Rourke could be a serious challenger. He starts the nomination race as one of the favorites, but the campaign is only just beginning. The Texan – a former punk rocker whose style is now closer to Bobby Kennedy – is a fierce opponent of Donald Trump’s wall. Here are the 10 things you need to know about O’Rourke.
1. El Paso
The son of a county judge, Robert “Beto” (a common local nickname) Francis O’Rourke was born on Sept. 26, 1972 in this quiet isolated town in west Texas and is a fluent Spanish speaker. After studying in Virginia and then New York, he returned to El Paso in 1998 to found an internet startup before being elected city councilman and then U.S. representative.
2. The Accident
On the night of his 26th birthday in September 1998, O’Rourke collided with a truck on the freeway. He was speeding and had had too much to drink. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and ordered to attend a DWI program. There was a problem, though, as a witness told police that Beto had tried to flee the scene of the accident and the witness had stopped him. O’Rourke, however, denies this version of events.
While a student at Columbia University in 1991, he founded the punk group “Foss” with three friends and was the bassist. That summer, the group toured North America and released a record, “The El Paso Pussycats.” The cover shows Beto wearing a floral, hippie-style blouse. During the 2018 fall midterm elections, in which the Democrat challenged Ted Cruz in a race for Texas senator, Republicans tried to exploit this picture to discredit him. The attempt backfired spectacularly however.
4. The Kennedys
The teeth? The hair on end? The rolled-up sleeves? His look, without a doubt, brings to mind Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s brother. Like Robert Kennedy, O’Rourke is young (46), equal parts serious and upbeat, and a tireless campaigner who exudes “positive vibes.” What’s more, he is a close friend of Joe Kennedy, a Massachusetts congressman and … Bobby’s grandson.
5. The Livestream
Live broadcasts via social media are his thing. We have thus seen him washing his socks in a hotel, broadcasting his trip to Washington in a rental car with a Republican congressman, and recently, his trip to the dental hygienist! During his senatorial campaign, he spent more than $8 million on Facebook and $2 million on Google advertising.
6. The Money
Having raised more than $80 million, nearly half of which came from small donors, O’Rourke smashed records in 2018 for fundraising in a senatorial campaign. “Future campaigns will be won, influenced by the one we built,” emphasized the candidate, who refused to accept money from political action committees, the strong-arm method of all types of businesses and lobbies.
7. A White Guy
As one female Democratic voter in Texas confided, “I am a huge fan of Beto. But honestly, I am ready for change at the very top of the state, in terms of racial and gender diversity.”* Beto starts out as a favorite to occupy the slot of “white Anglo-Saxon candidate under the age of 70” but he will have to consider voters that would prefer, at last, to see a female president.
8. The Wall
O’Rourke grew up near the border with Mexico and condemns Trump’s wall as “racist.” He has even recently confirmed that he would “take the wall down” at El Paso, which has earned him some criticism from moderate Democrats and the nickname “Beto no borders.” His platform is nothing radical though. He aims to naturalize the millions of immigrants who have been settled in the United States for years.
“I’m a capitalist,” he recently confirmed, and he is a difficult man to classify. In Congress, he was a part of the centrist group, the New Democrat Coalition, and voted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement condemned by Trump. On gun control, health insurance, immigration and even antitrust laws, however, he is clearly on the left.
Is he “Obama but white,” as some nickname him? The former president heaps praise on this “impressive young man who ran a terrific race in Texas,” saying, “What I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested. It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed.” However, it is fairly unlikely that Obama will choose a favorite before we reach the primaries.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quote could not be verified.