Congressman Beto O'Rourke announces run for Senate

Beto O'Rourke Senate announcement.jpg

Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke officially announced at a rooftop rally Friday his intentions to run for United States Senate.

“Friends, vecinos, Paisanos, Tejanos, I'm running to represent the great state of Texas in the U.S. Senate,” O’Rourke said almost immediately after taking the microphone.

The 44-year-old, third-term congressman told supporters from the Plaza in downtown El Paso that he has been thinking about running for the Senate ever since the 2016 presidential election.

“If you were like me and Amy, you've been wondering, 'Are we doing enough? Can we be more effective? Should we just wait for things to get better? Should we hope that someone else will meet the challenges in front of us? Or is there something more that we can do?' That's a conversation that Amy and I had back in November,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said he has already begun traveling throughout Texas and speaking with residents about what they want to see happen in Congress and the issues they care about. O’Rourke said he’s already been to Dallas, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Midland, Odessa, Abilene, Big Spring, Wichita Falls, Kailleen, Waco and Big Spring among other places, with more to go.

“We can wait until 2020 and hope that we are successful or we can decide that we are going to take back this country, are going to take back the state and we're going to do that in 2018. In 2018 starts right here, right now,” he said.

The junior congressman also told supporters that his campaign will by nontraditional and a little unconventional. He promised that he will not accept money from political action committees, or PACs, to fund his campaign.

“Conventionally speaking, this is in a very smart move on my part but I'm one of two members out of 535 in Congress that takes no corporate money, no political action committee money, no PACs. I depend on and I'm inspired by and I'm counting on you, not anyone else. I don't want that ever to be a question on who it is I'm talking to or who it is I serve or who it is we write legislation for,” O’Rourke said during the speech.

He said if he wants to win the election, he will have to go back to the basics, knocking on doors and convincing Texans one by one to vote for him. When O’Rourke was running for Congress for the first time in 2012, he knocked on 16,000 doors to beat out longtime incumbent Silvestre Reyes.

The other, more radical notion the Democrat proposed is term limits.

“I will also voluntarily limit myself to no more than two terms in the Senate because I believe in Texas, and Texas is going to produce somebody better than Ted Cruz and better than Beto O'Rourke. We need to have faith in ourselves to do that,” O’Rourke said.

During his speech, O’Rourke laid out several issues he wants to address while on the campaign trail and in Congress. He touted his efforts to reform the Veteran’s Affairs system but said more work needs to be done.

O’Rourke also said that he will support policies embracing people coming to the U.S. as immigrants or refugees. He spoke about comprehensive immigration reform and then repeated the words in fluent Spanish.

He also promised to act as a check and balance system for the, "paranoia coming out of the White House."

O'Rourke has been a longtime critic of U.S. drug policy. On Friday, he also criticized Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, saying the state needs a "senator working full-time for Texas" rather than "serving his own interests" running for president.

“I think Ted Cruz is smart to take this seriously because I think this is what Texas wants,” O’Rourke told reporters after the rally.

Cruz responded soon after the announcement was made on Twitter.

The congressman acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle if he is going to win first the Democraticprimary and then the Senate seat.

“This is definitely not going to be an easy campaign,” he said.

O’Rourke has not done any polling or hired a consultant to tell him what his chances of winning are. He said he feels in his heart that this is the best thing for Texas.

When asked about whether he thinks the odds are too difficult for an El Paso congressman to overcome, O’Rourke reflected on the Bowie High School baseball team winning the state championship back in 1949 and the UTEP Miners winning the NCAA basketball championship in 1966.

“This is a community of underdogs that up against the longest of odds have come out on top and not just changed this community in the state but have changed this country in this world for the better,” O’Rourke said.

He believes his 2018 Senate run can be another historic moment for the Sun City.

“I think that everyone counted out and no one counted on and everyone is going to be talking about on election night is El Paso. We are a city of winners. We are a city that produces winners against the longest of odds and I think in 2018 we're going to be very proud to say we were able to do that again,” he said.

Right after his rally in El Paso, the congressman headed to Dallas, where he will give a speech Friday evening.

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