Beto O’Rourke was the former U.S. Representative from the 16th District of Texas. He is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. O’Rourke was born in El Paso, Texas and received a degree in English literature from Columbia. In 1998, he launched a web-design company and started an online alternative newspaper, Stanton Street. In 2005, O’Rourke married Amy Sanders. The same year, he was elected to El Paso City Council, where he served until running for Congress in 2011.
After serving as a House member, O’Rourke won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2018. He lost to Senator Ted Cruz by over 2.5 points in the general election. O’Rourke has supported policies such as the decriminalization of unauthorized border crossings and “Medicare for All.” He labels the criminal justice system as “the new Jim Crow.”
Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was born in El Paso on September 26, 1972. He attended El Paso public schools until he was a junior in high school.
O’Rourke finished high school at Woodberry Forest School in Madison County, Virginia. Woodberry Forest is a small, male-only boarding school founded by President Madison’s family. He graduated in 1991.
In the fall of 1991, O’Rourke enrolled at Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in English literature. He graduated in 1995 and moved to New York City to work for uncle’s Internet service provider startup El.net.
In, 1998 O’Rourke moved back to El Paso. He created a web-design and alternative online newspaper company called Stanton Street Technology in 1999. He remained in that position until he was elected to the city council in May 2005.
In September of that same year, O’Rourke married Amy Sanders, daughter of billionaire developer William D. Sanders. The couple has three children.
Since O’Rourke has lived in El Paso, he has owned three single-family homes and until February 2017, was the co-owner of an 18-unit, multi-building apartment complex. O’Rourke mother gave him co-ownership of this complex and then placed it in a trust when she pleaded guilty for tax fraud.
In September 1998, O’Rourke received a DWI. Reports say that O’Rourke was traveling at a “high rate of speed” in a 75-mph zone where he lost control and hit a truck. After the collision, O’Rourke’s car spun out into the middle of oncoming traffic. He then attempted to flee the scene, according to one witness. In a 2018 Senate debate, O’Rourke maintained that he did not try to flee the scene, despite the police report to the contrary.
O’Rourke has also received some scrutiny over controversial real estate deals during his tenure as an El Paso city councilman. In the 2000s, O’Rourke went against the wishes of Barrio residents and advanced a major real estate deal in El Paso. Many people believed the deal was a conflict of interest because O’Rourke’s father-in-law, William D. Sanders, a billionaire developer, was involved in the deal that was upsetting those Barrio residents. His involvement with billionaire developers has caused people to question O’Rourke’s seemingly populist image.
Political and Professional Background
After graduating from Columbia, O’Rourke worked in various temporary jobs in New York City, including as a live-in nanny for a Manhattan family, assisting his uncle with an internet service provider, and as an art mover.
After returning to El Paso in 1998, O’Rourke co-founded the Stanton Street Technology Group, a tech startup focused on consulting clients with web design. The business was owned and operated by O’Rourke’s wife, Amy Hoover Sanders from 2013 until 2017.
O’Rourke’s plans for the redevelopment of hotels, sports arenas, and retailers was met with some opposition. Local business owners feared national retailers and Chicano activists saw the plan as an effort to “de-Mexicanize” the city. This opposition later resulted in ethics complaints filed against O’Rourke and alleged conflicts of interest with O’Rourke’s father-in-law, William Sanders, a key real estate developer.
While a member of the El Paso City Council, O’Rourke co-wrote a book in favor of the legalization of marijuana titled “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.” This topic became a central issue to O’Rourke during his tenure as a city council member. He later sponsored a city council resolution calling for marijuana legalization.
In 2012, O’Rourke challenged Silvestre Reyes, the 8-term incumbent Democratic congressman for TX-16, for the Democratic nomination. O’Rourke’s support for marijuana legalization was a point central contrast with Rep. Reyes in the primary election. O’Rourke defeated Reyes with 50.5 percent of the vote. O’Rourke went on to defeat Republican Barbara Carrasco in the general election, with 65 percent of the vote.
In Congress, O’Rourke focused on southern border-related legislation such as the Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act and Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act. O’Rourke also served on the Armed Services Committee and Veteran’s Affairs Committee.
In 2014, O’Rourke was re-elected to Congress with 67.5 percent of the vote. He most notably opposed President Obama’s deferred action policy calling the motive of the executive order “noble” but the means “really hard to stomach.”
While serving his second term in Congress, O’Rourke was one of six Representatives who traveled to Israel as part of a congressional delegation. His positions on Israel have included opposing funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defensive missile system.
In the 2016 election, O’Rourke endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and served as a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. O’Rourke went on to handily defeat both Green Party and Libertarian challengers in the general election.
In March of 2017, O’Rourke announced his campaign for U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz in Texas. O’Rourke received multiple high profile media endorsements, most notably from The Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Despite being defeated in the general election by 3 percent, O’Rourke’s senate campaign received national attention for the use of social media and fundraising abilities.
In March of 2018, at the age of 45, after months of media speculation and encouragement, O’Rourke announced his campaign for President of the United States. Immediately following his announcement, O’Rourke quickly began campaigning in early primary/caucus states like Iowa, as well as key general election swing states like Wisconsin.
On The Issues
Border Security and Immigration
In 2014 O’Rourke voted against a supplemental appropriations bill that would have provided multiple agencies and departments dealing with border security funding. Part of this bill would have provided $22 million for immigration judges that saw cases of illegal immigrants claim for asylum or citizenship. The same bill would have also provided $694 million to agencies involved with the housing and care of unaccompanied migrant children apprehended at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. That same year, O’Rourke voted against a measure that would have allowed border protection agencies flexibility to remain open during while the government remained operating under a stop-gap measure.
During his run for Senate in 2017, O’Rourke claimed that existing border walls are not necessary and he called them racist. He continues on by claiming that we already provide too much to border security projects and that the border is “as secure as it has ever been.”
O’Rourke opposed H.R. 4038, which was a bill designed to ensure Iraqi and Syrian refugees had background checks before being permitted into the US. In voting no on this bill, O’Rourke also opposed in letting the FBI Director and Director of National Intelligence weigh in on the potential threat level of a refugee. In September 2015, O’Rourke had called for the admittance of at least 65,000 Syrian refugees.
Beto claims the barrier in El Paso should be taken down.
Beto O’Rourke has a long and detailed history of voting in favor of keeping Obamacare safe from any modification. O’Rourke has claimed on the campaign trail that he is not sure “Medicare-for-All” is the fastest way to ensuring universal healthcare. He has instead offered up a plan called “Medicare for America.”
This legislation was introduced by U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. It would set up a government-run health care program — like Medicare for All — but aims to let people keep their employer-sponsored insurance if they have it and like it.
“It responds to the fact that so many Americans have said, ‘I like my employer-based insurance. I want to keep it. I like the network I’m in. I like the doctor that I see,'” O’Rourke said. “It complements what already exists with the need that we have for millions of Americans who do not have insurance and ensures that each of them can enroll in Medicare. It then suggests additional investments in that program so it becomes the program of choice, and people who have private insurance migrate over to the Medicare system,” O’Rourke claimed while on the campaign trail in Dubuque, IA.
Beto O’Rourke has joined much of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in their support of abolishing the electoral college, stating, “You had an election in 2016 where the loser got 3 million more votes than the victor. It puts some states out of play altogether, they don’t feel like their votes really count.”
Beto has spoken out against the legality of certain semi-automatics assault rifles and in some cases has even called for a complete ban. He has called AR-15’s “weapons of war” and spoken out against their ability to be sold to the average, law-abiding citizen.
Mr. O’Rourke has also supported a ban on concealed-carry reciprocity. He claims that concealed carry reciprocity makes citizens less safe in an op-ed written in December of 2016. “We should not subject every Texan, every El Pasoan to the lowest common denominator in the U.S. because that will make Texas less, not more, safe,” O’Rourke wrote.
Beto O’Rourke has called for the elimination of private, for-profit prisons. He also has called for the legalization of marijuana and that the records of those serving time for possession should be expunged.
O’Rourke has endorsed minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses and considered treating addiction as a public health concern. Adding to that, he has supported eliminating the cash bail system, citing what he says a system that punishes the poor unequally all while supporting “meaningful reentry” programs to reduce recidivism.
Green New Deal
Beto O’Rourke has been echoing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez other 2020 presidential hopefuls in his acceptance of the Green New Deal. The day he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president, O’Rourke provided his thoughts on it while campaigning in Keokuk, Iowa saying, “Literally. Not to be dramatic, but literally, the future of the world depends on us right now here where we are. Let’s find a way to do this.”
Beto O’Rourke early in April 2019 called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” and barrier to peace in US-Israeli relations and global affairs in the Middle East.
“That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,” O’Rourke said.
In his rebuke of the Israeli Prime Minister, O’Rourke highlighted disbelief in Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to cultivate outcomes representing the will of the Israeli people. O’Rourke also noted that Netanyahu is not a leader conducive to the interests of a strong US-Israeli relationship.
“We must be able to transcend his current leadership to make sure that that alliance is strong, that we continue to push for and settle for nothing less than a two-state solution because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine. It is the best opportunity for the full human rights of everyone who is living in that region,” O’Rourke said.
CNN: What we learned about Beto O’Rourke’s policy beliefs on day one of his presidential campaign
Fox News: Beto O’Rourke pitches drastic overhaul of Supreme Court
Washington Examiner: Asked about immigration reform, Beto O’Rourke admits ignorance: ‘I don’t know’
The Washington Times: Beto O’Rourke on third-term abortion: ‘That should be a decision that the woman makes’
The Hill: O’Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions ‘best left to a woman and her doctor’
National Review: Beto Doubles Down on Support for Third-Trimester Abortions
Huffington Post: Beto O’Rourke’s Vote To Lift The Oil Export Ban Looms Over His Climate Record
Washington Post: O’Rourke’s claim that the United States has spent ‘27 years’ in Iraq