Like few other Texans in recent years, one former El Paso congressman is known to many by his first name alone. But that extraordinary name recognition, and even an unexpectedly close Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018, wasn’t enough to propel Beto O’Rourke to the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, O’Rourke is focused on getting more Democrats elected in Texas.
O’Rourke spoke with Texas Standard host David Brown about his new group, Powered by People. He says it’s vital that Democrats elect more members to the Texas Legislature.
“Powered by People is all about bringing our fellow Texans together to decide the most important elections of our lifetimes,” O’Rourke says.
He says the 2020 election is especially important because the members who will be elected to serve during the next legislative session will decide how voting districts will be drawn in the state. Republicans currently hold a nine-seat majority in the House.
“Texas is one of the most gerrymandered states in the union, and has produced one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country,” O’Rourke says.
The party that controls the statehouse is likely to draw districts that favor its candidates.
O’Rourke says he wants to bring more volunteers into legislative campaigns. A highly mobilized volunteer force was among the strengths of his Senate bid.
The 17 Texas House seats O’Rourke’s Powered by People is targeting are those that came closest to going blue in 2018, he says. They also include districts where he got more votes than Cruz.
“[We’ve got] great candidates like Eliz Markowitz in [House District] 28 in Fort Bend,” he says. “This is not only very possible – we’ve done it before and I think we’ll do it again. And we’ll be able to get more than just those nine seats.”
O’Rourke says his group and others can also help a Democratic presidential candidate in Texas in 2020, as well as propel a U.S. Senate candidate.
“If we do the necessary organizing work … to mobilize voters in what has been a historically low-turnout state, and turn out proportionate to our true numbers, we can help whoever the Democratic nominee for president [is] defeat Donald Trump in Texas,” O’Rourke says.
Having been pressed by many to take on Sen. John Cornyn rather than seek the presidency, O’Rourke nods to the large field of Democrats on the March primary ballot.
“In a state of 28 million, certainly there is someone else who can run for Senate and do so successfully against John Cornyn,” O’Rourke says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.