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Beto O'Rourke on the issues, in under 500 words

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 Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms. O'Rourke became a household name as a result of his charismatic speeches, local approach to politics and authenticity on social media. He famously visited all 254 counties in Texas.

Key facts:

  • 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: 3-term representative for Texas' 16th district, served on El Paso City Council 2005–2011.

Stance on key issues:

  • Health care: O'Rourke has vacillated between endorsing single-payer and Medicare for All, instead opting to put stock in Medicare for America, which aims to expand "government-run health coverage while keeping employer-sponsored insurance plans," CNN reports.
  • Climate change: He proposed an aggressive, detailed $5 trillion plan to address climate change, calling it the "greatest threat we face." It aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • 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: Called for universal background checks and limits on sale of AR-15s. Opposes requiring states to recognize concealed carry permits granted in other states.
  • Immigration: Vocal critic of Trump's border wall with Mexico. Said U.S. should not criminalize migrants who request asylum between ports of entry.
  • Supreme Court reform: Said "an idea we should explore" is to have 5 justices selected by Democrats and 5 by Republicans. They would then select 5 more for a total of 20. Also offered the idea of term limits.
  • College tuition: Not on the bill for debt-free college.
  • Minimum wage: Supports increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Marijuana: Favors decriminalization and expunging criminal records for cannabis-related offenses.
  • Transparency: Would require cabinet to hold monthly town halls.
  • Big Tech: Doesn't support breaking up Big Tech firms, claiming it would not "ensure dynamism in our economy and address corporate concentration."
  • Voting rights: Announced goal of registering more than 50 million voters and ensuring that 35 million more votes are cast in 2024.

Key criticisms:

  • 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, which aligned 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.
  • Behavior in his teenage years: When he was 15, he wrote a piece of fiction about killing children, about which he has since expressed regret: "I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words."
  • Hacking: Was a member of America's oldest hacking group, Cult of the Dead Cow, in the 1980s.

1 fun thing

  • 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

Editor's note: This story has been updated to note that O'Rourke visited all 254 Texas counties, not districts.

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