EL PASO, Texas – Beto O'Rourke officially kicked off his run for president Saturday from downtown El Paso, his hometown, promising “a campaign for America, foreveryonee in America.”
The official kickoff follows a two-week tour of eight battleground states and after O’Rourke announced he was entering the race on social media on March 14. Two more rallies in Houston and Austin are planned Saturday.
O’Rourke joins 16 other candidates and counting for the Democratic nomination for president. He consistently ranks near the top in early polling, usually in fourth place behind Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who hasn’t announced a run.
“This state and its 38 electoral votes count like they’re never counted before,” O’Rourke said in El Paso. “All of us have a seat at the table. All of us matter.”
El Paso has been home to the O’Rourke family for five generations, the campaign said. His wife, Amy, and their three children attended the official kickoff.
“Our children and … your children and the generations that follow them are depending on us now at this moment,” O’Rourke said. “This is our moment of truth, and we can’t be found wanting.”
O’Rourke said income and health care inequality, climate change and a lack of unity are among the “greatest challenges of our lifetimes” and said, “Our current president uses fear and division based on the differences between us.”
“Whatever our differences,” O’Rourke said later, “let those differences not define us or divide us at this moment. Let’s agree going forward, before we are anything else, we are Americans first.”
Some Democrats have criticized O’Rourke for not having specific policy proposals and for a lack of high-profile legislative accomplishments during his three terms as a congressman.
“I was just glad I shook his hand,” said Gerardo Acosta after the rally. After voting for Donald Trump in 2016, Acosta is ready for another change.
“He’s for the people,” Acosta said. “I think he’s not going either Republican or Democrat, I think he’s going for everything. He wants to just go for the people.”
“Just having one of our hometown gentlemen here is exciting,” Norma Coleman, from El Paso, said.
“I love what he’s doing for our veterans,” said Sherre Massey. Derek Hernandez said, “It’s a big bonus that his values align with my values."
Tim Quigley, who remembers voting for John Kennedy, came all the way from Northern California because “I had to be here at the start.”
“What stands out is his message of aspiration and inspiration,” Quigley said. “There’s something kinetic about Beto, and it clicks, and it’s his authentic, his authenticity.”