Hailed by some supporters as the “JFK of Texas”, U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke paid the University of Texas a visit during his month-long tour of the state. Beto currently represents his hometown of El Paso in the 16th District where he previously served on City Council. He will be running as a Democrat in the 2018 U.S. Senate election against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. It’s been over three decades since a Democratic senator represented the state, however, Beto may be the man for the job as he already has experience unseating incumbents. He did so in his 2005 City Council race as well as in his 2012 run for House Representative. He was re-elected for a second term in both positions. The essence of his success he said is simply listening and sharing people’s stories. He calls this next race “the long shot of all long shots”.
Beto began the afternoon by describing his upbringing in a family that was committed to serving the community. His mother worked at the town furniture store and is now the owner. His father served as the County Commissioner and then later as the County Judge. Growing up, Beto loved music and joined a punk rock band called Foss. A bigger music scene he admitted was one reason attending Columbia University in New York City appealed to him. After graduating with an Ivy degree in 1995, he found his way back to El Paso and co-founded a software company called Stanton Street Technology.
Beto took questions from students on an array of his issues. His platform includes reforms on healthcare, education, and immigration:
“Healthcare,” he told the crowd, “cannot remain as a function of luck but must be a moral and public good.” Step one for Beto would be keeping the Affordable Care Act. Step two would be sustainability – states like Texas that originally refused need to expand Medicaid. Step three would be offering Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, instead of with a private insurer. Step four would be the coverage of all Americans under Medicare by a single-payer plan, an idea also advocated by Senator Bernie Sanders.
Like Sanders, Beto pledges to reduce the cost of higher education. Some of his goals include: capping tuition rate increases, reducing federal student loan interest rates, and making the first two years of college free.
On immigration, Beto said, “That if it is a problem, it is the best problem to have.” He cannot imagine what it is like to be a DACA child and feel as though your president doesn’t love you. A $25 billion dollar wall will not solve all our issues, but that in fact, we should acknowledge our border has never been as safe and secure as it is right now.
Relatedly, Beto is a proponent for the legalization of marijuana. He wants to regulate its sale like alcohol and cites this as a way to combat the financing of drug cartels. If we don’t legalize the drug, he thinks it will grow more potent and continue to trickle into schools. “Let your children be your conscience,” he says. We can save Americans money and prison time.
Critics often point to Beto’s own arrest record: an incident of breaking and entering as well as an incident of drunk driving. However, such a record hasn’t appeared to impact his election successes nor stunt his vigor in calling out those in Washington whose biggest concern is getting re-elected. He pointed to a 93% re-election rate in the U.S. Congress and says those men do not represent the diversity he sees on this campus. He said we need term limits and non-partisan redistricting committees as soon as possible. Officials are choosing their voters when it is supposed to be the other way around. Beto wants you to choose him, so for more information, check out his campaign site at https://betofortexas.com
By: Jacquelyn Clark, current Brumley Next Generation Scholar. To see what Jacquelyn and other Scholars are up to, check out this previous post.