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Beto O'Rourke: Everything you need to know about the 2020 candidate

Beto O'Rourke.
Beto O'Rourke. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke is a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, who narrowly failed to beat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections. O'Rourke became a household name thanks to his charismatic speeches, local approach to politics and authenticity on social media. He famously visited all 254 districts in Texas during the midterm cycle.

Key facts about O'Rourke

  • Age: 46
  • Born: El Paso, Texas
  • Undergraduate: Columbia University
  • Date candidacy announced: March 14, 2019
  • % of votes in line with Trump, per FiveThirtyEight: 30.1%
  • Previous roles: Representative for Texas' 16th congressional district for 3 terms, served on El Paso City Council 2005–2011

O'Rourke’s stance on key issues:

  • Medicare for All: O’Rourke supports universal health care but did not mention Medicare for All on his senatorial campaign website, despite backing such a program in 2017.
  • Green New Deal: He has said he is "supportive of the concept" of the Green New Deal and that it is "the best proposal" he has seen to address climate change.
  • Taxes: He has derided business tax cuts and opposed the GOP tax overhaul of 2017. O’Rourke voted in favor of an oil tax in 2016 that would have taxed $10 on every barrel of crude oil.
  • Gun control: O'Rourke has called for universal background checks and limits on the sale of AR-15s. He opposes requiring states to recognize concealed carry permits granted in other states.
  • Immigration: O'Rourke has been a vocal critic of Trump's border wall with Mexico and said the U.S. should not criminalize who request asylum between ports of entry.
  • Supreme Court reform: Said on March 14 that "an idea we should explore" is to have 5 justices selected by Democrats and 5 by Republicans — those 10 would then select five more per side for a total of 20. He also offered the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices.
  • College tuition: He is not on the bill for debt-free college.
  • Minimum wage: O'Rourke supports increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Marijuana: He is in favor of decriminalization and expunging criminal records of cannabis-related offenses.

Key criticisms of O'Rourke:

  • Lack of progressive policy: Democratic activists question whether O'Rourke is truly progressive enough to clinch the nomination. He was a member of the New Democrat Coalition in the House of Representatives, which aligned itself closely with business interests.
  • Energy policy: O'Rourke has opposed legislation that would prevent drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
  • Business policy: He has voted in favor of bills that Democrats said would reduce independent audits of corporations.
  • Lack of solutions: O'Rourke has criticized Trump's border wall approach to immigration, but has not offered concrete policy solutions and said in an interview with the Washington Post that he didn't know what could be done about immigrants who overstay their visa.
  • Behavior in his teenage years: When he was 15 years old he wrote a piece of fiction about killing children. Since announcing his run, he has expressed embarrassment about the piece: "I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words. ... and I have to constantly try to do better."
  • Hacking: O'Rourke was a member of America's oldest hacking group, Cult of the Dead Cow, in the 1980s, in which he was known as "Psychic Warlord."

1 fun thing about Beto

  • O'Rourke used to play in a punk band, Foss, and founded a software company.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the other 2020 candidates

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