Beto O'Rourke

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Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded bySilvestre Reyes
Member of the El Paso City Council
from the 8th district
In office
June 1, 2005 – June 27, 2011
Preceded byAnthony Cobos
Succeeded byCortney Niland
Personal details
BornRobert Francis O'Rourke
(1972-09-26) September 26, 1972 (age 48)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Amy Hoover Sanders (m. 2005)
EducationColumbia University (BA)
WebsiteHouse website

Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (/ˈbɛt/; born September 26, 1972) is an American politician and businessman serving as the U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district in his native El Paso since 2013. He is the Democratic nominee in the 2018 Texas Senate race, challenging incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

O'Rourke won the general election held in November 2012, after having defeated incumbent U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic Party primary earlier that year.[1][2] The district includes most of El Paso County. Prior to his election to the U.S. Congress, O'Rourke was on the El Paso City Council from June 2005 to June 2011.

On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in the 2018 U.S. federal midterm election.

Early life, education, and music career[edit | edit source]

O'Rourke is a fourth-generation Irish American,[3] born in El Paso, the son of Melissa Martha (Williams) and El Paso County Judge Pat Francis O'Rourke.[4][5] He adopted the nickname "Beto", which is a common Spanish nickname for "Roberto".[6] His father was a political associate of former Texas Governor Mark White. Judge O'Rourke was killed in July 2001, at the age of fifty-eight, when he was struck from behind by a car while riding his bicycle over the New Mexico state line.[7]

O'Rourke attended Carlos Rivera and Mesita Elementary Schools and El Paso High School. He graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1991. In the early 1990s, he was a bassist[8] in the band Foss, which included Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocalist for At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta) on vocals and drums, Arlo Klahr on vocals and guitar, and Mike Stevens on vocals and guitar. The group released a self-titled demo and a 7" record, "The El Paso Pussycats", on Western Breed Records in 1993. They released a subsequent album, "Fewel St.", in 1994, also on Western. Foss toured the United States and Canada in the summer of 1993 and again, along with Bixler's concurrent band, Los Dregtones, in the summer of 1994.

O'Rourke attended Columbia University in New York where he captained Columbia's rowing crew.[9] He graduated from Columbia in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature.[10] He was arrested in 1995 on burglary charges, and in 1998 on drunken driving charges, but not convicted in either case.[11][12] He is fluent in Spanish.[13]

Business career (1995–2005)[edit | edit source]

Following college, O'Rourke worked at Internet service providers in New York City[14] before his return to El Paso in 1998. The following year, he co-founded Stanton Street Technology, an internet services and software company that develops websites and software.[14][15] His wife, Amy, operates the business as of March 2017.[16]

El Paso City Council (2005–2011)[edit | edit source]

Elections[edit | edit source]

In mid-2005, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council, and defeated two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos, 57%–43%.[17][18] O'Rourke is one of the youngest representatives to have ever served on the City Council.[19] In 2007, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Trini Acevedo, 70%–30%.[20][21]

Tenure[edit | edit source]

Minutemen[edit | edit source]

In August 2005, a resolution was drafted by O'Rourke and fellow council member Steve Ortega, calling on city officials to discourage the anti-illegal-immigrant Minutemen from patrolling the local stretch of the Texas-Mexico border and "reject civilian attempts to enforce immigration law." The Minutemen's spokesman Shannon McGauley said his group planned to go ahead with October operations in El Paso, despite the resolution.[citation needed]

Recall[edit | edit source]

In 2006, O'Rourke survived an attempt to recall him regarding an El Paso Downtown Redevelopment Plan. South Side activist Carmen Felix initiated a recall petition drive against him on May 3, 2006. Despite the threat of recall, O'Rourke continued to strongly advocate the use of eminent domain in conjunction with the plan to redevelop Downtown El Paso. At the El Paso City Council meeting held on July 9, 2006, still under threat of recall, he showed a distinct change in tone toward the El Paso Downtown Revitalization Plan. He responded to a question posed by fellow city councilman Lozano as to whether residents displaced by new construction "could come back to the area", responding in assurance that the city would make "every effort" to ensure displaced residents were allowed to remain in their same neighborhoods.[citation needed]

Ethics complaint[edit | edit source]

On September 5, 2006, the Land Grab Opponents of El Paso filed an ethics complaint with the City of El Paso, citing the business relationship between O'Rourke and the Paso del Norte Group, developers who had proposed a Downtown Revitalization Plan for El Paso. O'Rourke's own company, Stanton Street Technology Group, was providing Internet and Information Technology services to Paso del Norte. O'Rourke's father-in-law, William Sanders, was a leader in the Paso del Norte Group. The complaint said "O'Rourke is impermissibly entangled in the Paso del Norte Group's Downtown Revitalization Plan, through both family and business ties".[22] The complaint raised objections to two votes by O'Rourke, one to extend Paso del Norte's contract with the city in 2005 and another to accept the group's redevelopment proposal in March. It alleged that O'Rourke's participation in these votes "violated his fiduciary duty to the citizens of El Paso".[22] The city's Ethics Review Commission summarily dismissed this complaint on October 12, 2006. The Land Grab Opponents filed a second complaint that suggested that the CFO of Sanders's company, The Verde Group, prepared O'Rourke's income tax return in 2006. This complaint was dismissed on October 18, 2006.

An attorney for the Land Grab Opponents said the ethics complaints were filed to make O'Rourke recuse himself from debating and voting on the plan.[23] O'Rourke abstained from voting when the Council considered establishing a Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.[citation needed]

War on Drugs[edit | edit source]

In January 2009, O'Rourke sponsored a resolution asking the federal government to rethink the War on Drugs and initiate an "open and honest debate" about ending the prohibition of illegal drugs. The resolution, which was unanimously supported by his colleagues on the El Paso City Council, was vetoed by then-Mayor John Cook and spurred a larger national discussion on the topic.[24] He told reporters that the reason he decided to speak up about what he called the failed war on drugs was the thousands of people who have been killed in the drug war in the adjoining city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. "I hope it has all had its intended effect of starting the national discussion of the wisdom of the war on drugs […] and probably more importantly, helping to bring about a better solution than the status quo, which has led to the terror and tragedy in Juarez.[25]

U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present)[edit | edit source]

Elections[edit | edit source]

2012[edit | edit source]

In 2012, O'Rourke filed for the Democratic primary against the eight-term Silvestre Reyes to represent Texas's 16th congressional district. The primary was seen as the real contest in this heavily Democratic, majority-Latino district.[13] O'Rourke took 50.5 percent of the vote, just a few hundred votes above the threshold required to avoid a runoff against Reyes.[26] He was contrasted with Reyes in his support for LGBT rights[27] and drug liberalization.[28] He defeated his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, in the general election with 65 percent of the vote.

2014[edit | edit source]

O'Rourke won re-election in 2014 with 67% of the vote.

During the fall of 2014, O'Rourke donated at least $28,000 from his own campaign funds to fellow Democratic candidates for House seats.[29]

2016[edit | edit source]

In October 2015, O'Rourke announced his bid for a third term in 2016.[30] He won the Democratic primary and defeated his Green and Libertarian opponents in the general election.[31]

2018[edit | edit source]

On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Party member Ted Cruz.[32] Thereafter, O'Rourke raised $2 million within the first three months, mostly from small donations (he had pledged not to accept PAC contributions for his campaign).[33]

Tenure[edit | edit source]

As part of his opposition to the War on Drugs, O'Rourke favors the legalization of cannabis on grounds that the war against narcotics cannot be won. He is staunchly opposed to U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to curtail undocumented immigration. He has referred to the Trump administration as "another step into a dark world of fear."[7]

In mid-March 2017, O'Rourke joined his Republican colleague Will Hurd of Texas's 23rd congressional district in driving from Texas to Washington, D.C. in a rental car after an East Coast storm canceled many air flights. The two developed a friendship and discussed congressional business during the long drive. They indicated their intent to make the drive an annual event.[7]

O'Rourke endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. President in June 2016. As a sitting member of Congress, O'Rourke was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention.[34]

On the evening of June 22, 2016, O'Rourke participated in the sit-in in the House of Representatives that attempted to force a vote on gun control legislation. When the Republicans ordered C-SPAN to turn off its normal coverage of the chamber, O'Rourke and Representative Scott Peters transmitted images by cell phone to social media for C-SPAN to broadcast.[35]

Committee assignments[edit | edit source]

Caucus memberships[edit | edit source]

[edit | edit source]

O'Rourke's first sponsored House bill was introduced on April 8, 2013. The bill was H.R. 1265, which required the continuation of tuition assistance programs for members of the Armed Forces for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. This bill was not passed into law.[37]

H.R. 2036 was introduced by O'Rourke on June 6 of the same year. H.R. 2036, also known as the Foster Children Opportunity Act, would require state plans for foster care and adoption assistance to have procedures to assist alien children in the child welfare system achieve special immigrant juvenile status and create a process for those children to become U.S. citizens by the time they exited foster care. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition, where it is awaiting a vote.[38]

2018 Senate campaign[edit | edit source]

When asked by The Texas Tribune if he might run for the Senate in 2018 against Cruz or in 2020 against Republican John Cornyn, O'Rourke first said that he is considering a Senate race.[39] He is likely to have the services of Christian Archer, a veteran political operative from San Antonio, who prior to 2013 was active in campaigns of former Mayor Julian Castro, later the secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas' 20th congressional district, twin brothers and popular San Antonio area Democratic politicians. Archer terms O'Rourke "Kennedy-esque ... He's got this aura around him. It's neat because he can talk about anything."[40]

On March 31, 2017, after crisscrossing the state to gauge interest, O'Rourke announced that he would be running in 2018 in an effort to unseat Cruz. He was the first Democratic candidate to enter the race.[41] He became the Democratic Party nominee, winning 61.8% of the primary vote. [42]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

O'Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders, the daughter of Louann and William Sanders of El Paso, on September 24, 2005 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The couple have three children.[10] Sanders is the director of education development for the La Fe Community Development Corporation and executive director of the La Fe Preparatory charter school.[43]

Publications[edit | edit source]

  • O'Rourke, Beto and Byrd, Susie (2011). Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, Cinco Puntos Press ISBN 1933693940

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Beto O'Rourke, Marijuana Legalization Supporter, Beats Rep. Silvestre Reyes (UPDATE)". May 29, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  2. Roberts, Chris. "District 16: Beto O'Rourke coasts into Congress". Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  3. Draper, Robert (November 14, 2014). "Texas, 3 Ways". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  4. Fernandez, Manny (February 17, 2016). "Pope’s Presence Crosses Border Into U.S., Even if He Doesn’t". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  6. Stanton, John (October 14, 2014). "Juarez’s Biggest Booster Is An Irish-American Congressman". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Bill Lambrecht, "From border to brink of Senate run," San Antonio Express-News, March 17, 2017, pp. 1, A9
  8. "A Chat With Beto O’Rourke, the Ex-Punk Bassist Running for Ted Cruz’s Senate Seat". Spin. October 4, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2018. 
  9. "Does Beto O’Rourke Stand a Chance Against Ted Cruz?". Retrieved February 2, 2018. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Beto O'Rourke (D)".'rourke--TX-H. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  11. "Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas)". Washington Post. December 25, 2012. 
  12. "New Silvestre Reyes ad attacks Beto O'Rourke's character". The El Paso Times. Archived from the original on 2014-09-19. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Fernandez, Manny. "Texas Incumbent Loses In Democratic Primary". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Controlling Cyberspace: What's at stake with net neutrality". KFOX TV. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  15. "Beto O'Rourke". Retrieved March 29, 2017. 
  16. Lovegrove, Jamie (March 31, 2017). "Beto O'Rourke launches 2018 Senate campaign in underdog bid to unseat Ted Cruz". Dallas News. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  17. "El Paso City Council District 8 Race – May 07, 2005". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  18. "2005 General Election". Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  20. "Our Campaigns – El Paso City Council District 8 Race – May 12, 2007". 
  21. "Low turnout not as big a surprise as voting trends". El Paso [permanent dead link]
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Land Grab Opponents complaint" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2007. 
  23. "O'Rourke's in-law to invest in plan", El Paso Times
  24. Smith, Philipp S. (February 16, 2010). "The First City in America to Criminalize Marijuana Passes Resolution Criticizing Drug War". AlterNet. Retrieved November 11, 2017. 
  25. Crowder, David (January 9, 2009). "O'Rourke in national headlights over 12 words in Drug War resolution". Newspaper Tree. Archived from the original on March 7, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  26. "Beto O'Rourke defeats Silvestre Reyes in 2012 primary election for Congress". El Paso Times. [permanent dead link]
  27. Taffet, David (January 4, 2013). "El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke among strongest new LGBT allies in Congress". Dallas Voice. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  28. Ortiz Uribe, Mónica (May 14, 2012). "West Texas Congressional Race Could Yield Surprises". Fronteras Desk. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  29. Willis, Derek (November 2, 2014). "House Democrats Dig Deep for Cash, From Their Colleagues’ Campaigns". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  30. "Congressman O'Rourke to seek re-election". El Paso Times. October 13, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  31. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016. 
  32. "Rep. Beto O'Rourke to launch Senate run against Ted Cruz Friday". The Texas Tribune. March 29, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017. 
  33. "Democratic congressman raises $2M in bid against Sen. Ted Cruz". USA Today. July 13, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017. 
  34. Moore, Robert (June 10, 2016). "Rep. Beto O'Rourke endorses Hillary Clinton". El Paso Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  35. "-SPAN Uses Social Media Feeds to Cover Protest". New York Times. Associated Press. June 23, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  36. "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Retrieved 5 February 2018. 
  37. "Representative Beto O'Rourke (1972 - )". Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  38. "H.R.2036 - Foster Children Opportunity Act". May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  39. Tribune, The Texas (November 4, 2016). "U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke looking at a U.S. Senate campaign". Retrieved March 29, 2017. 
  40. Gilbert Garcia, "S.A. political operative likely to help O'Rourke's Senate bid", San Antonio Express-News, March 19, 2017, p. A2.
  41. Smilowitz, Elliot (March 31, 2017). "Texas Dem enters race to challenge Cruz in 2018". TheHill. 
  42. "Texas Primary Election Results". Retrieved 7 March 2018. 
  43. "U.S. Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke". Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Preceded by
Silvestre Reyes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th congressional district

Preceded by
Paul Sadler
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Texas
(Class 1)

Most recent
Preceded by
Markwayne Mullin
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Scott Perry

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