Beto For America

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Meet Beto

Growing up in a city of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, Beto learned what’s best about America: The idea that no matter our differences—who you love or who you pray to, what you look like, whether you’ve been here for generations or just got here yesterday—you’re in the right place.

As a businessman and a congressman, as a rocker and a rower, as a candidate for senate and for president, Beto has spent his entire life bringing together everyone—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, in big cities and small towns—to help our country realize its full potential and promise.

Here’s his story.

Illustrations: Patrick Gabaldon

Early Years

September 26th 1972

Beto O’Rourke was born at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in El Paso, Texas, the largest binational community in the Western Hemisphere.

The son of a local small business owner, Melissa O’Rourke, and county judge, Pat O’Rourke, Beto was raised in El Paso as a fourth generation Texan.

As a kid, Beto backpacked and hiked with his dad, worked in his mom’s furniture store, and spent time with his sisters. He attended local public schools in El Paso.

In 8th grade, Beto’s friend Arlo lent him London Calling by The Clash, which Beto describes as a life changing moment—because it introduced him to the world of punk rock, where he felt like he belonged.

After graduating from high school, he took out student loans and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he was a co-captain of the crew team and majored in English Literature.

While in college, Beto and a few of his buddies—including Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who’d later become the leader of Mars Volta—formed a band called Foss, a punk rock band in the vein of the ones he loved as a kid.

When school was out for summer break, they toured the U.S. and Canada, making enough money from gigs for a bite to eat and gas to the next show.

They based their shows on those of Dischord Records—an indie label known for pressing their own records, writing their own songs, booking their own tours, and welcoming everyone, of all ages, to their concerts. Never charging more than $10.

After college, Beto stayed in New York—working full-time at a tech start-up, taking shifts at an art moving company, and moonlighting as a live-in babysitter so he could afford rent.

A few years later, on a subway ride to the Bronx, Beto realized how much he missed El Paso—and decided to pack up his stuff, rent a cheap truck, and drive 2,181 miles home to Texas.

Back in El Paso, Beto started a small business of his own—a tech company called Stanton Street Technology Group, which brought dozens of high-wage, high-skill jobs to his community—and is still around today.

The next year, Beto’s father, Pat, passed away in a tragic bicycling accident. At the funeral, Beto said his father was “an instrumental part of everything I did.”

“He died young,” Beto said, “but lived life to the fullest.”

A few years later, Beto started a family of his own.

City Council

In 2005, Beto was set up on a blind date with Amy Sanders, while she was visiting El Paso after a year teaching in Guatemala. They went across the border to Juarez, Mexico for dinner at Martino’s and a drink at The Kentucky Club—known as the birthplace of the margarita.

They had a great night—including a visit to Mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the city’s historic cathedral built in 1659—but two weeks later, when Beto told Amy he was going to run for City Council, she said to herself: “There’s no way I’m sticking around for that.”

Spoiler alert: She did.

Their dates consisted of neighborhood association meetings and door knocking. They were not supposed to win this race. An early poll showed Beto losing by 20 points.

That didn’t deter Amy and Beto.

Win or lose, Beto would run a different kind of campaign. He wouldn’t poll-test his lines. Or hire consultants. Or spend time only with voters who turned out in the past.

Instead, he’d embrace a new kind of politics. One built on the same idea as those Dischord concerts—that every single one of us belongs.

Over the next few months, Beto and Amy, and hundreds of volunteers, spoke with and listened to everyone they could—in parks and on busses, in living rooms and at town meetings.

And on election night, Beto became one of the youngest members ever on the El Paso City Council.

Shortly thereafter, Beto asked Amy to marry him.

She said yes.

On September 24, 2005, Beto and Amy became husband and wife. A year later, Ulysses O’Rourke (age 12) was born—followed soon by Molly (age 11) and Henry (age 8). They attend the same public school Beto went to as a kid.

As a council member, Beto kept the spirit of his campaign alive by holding weekly open-door town halls at the Village Inn—a tradition he continued with monthly town halls as a congressman and one he will continue as president.

Over his six years on the El Paso City Council, these town halls inspired Beto to stand up for what he believed in—including LGBT equality and the decriminalization of marijuana—long before either was safe or popular.

In 2011, he even co-authored a book calling for an end to the War on Drugs.

When Beto was on City Council, ASARCO applied to renew its permit after more than 100 years of poisoning El Pasoans with chemicals like lead, arsenic, and cadmium. Beto could have done what El Paso politicians did for decades—and allowed ASARCO to stay in El Paso.

But Beto knew the damage the plant was causing—not only to kids in El Paso, but in Juarez, Mexico. Their IQs were lower. Their motor coordination was limited. Their development was stunted.

So when ASARCO asked to keep emitting toxins into our community for another century, Beto refused. And once the facility was shuttered, Beto led the City Council in ensuring ASARCO’s workers got the care and compensation they deserve.

What was once the largest smokestack in the world is now gone.

Six years after running for City Council, Beto decided he could do even more to serve his hometown of El Paso in Washington—as a member of the United States Congress.

Congress

Running for Congress, Beto found himself as an underdog once again. This time, he was running against a 16-year incumbent, who had three times the money, support from big PACs, and had even convinced Bill Clinton to come down to a rally at the Coliseum in El Paso. In the face of attack ads, Beto kept fighting—for veterans, for Planned Parenthood, for the border, and against corruption.

An early poll showed Beto down by a lot—but he did what he’s always done. Knocked on doors. Listened to his neighbors. And built a movement of volunteers from across the community.

On election day, Beto defied expectations and won the five person primary without a runoff—and went on to become the Congressman for the 16th District.

Over the next six years, Beto represented his hometown in Congress, serving on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Every month he served in Congress, Beto held all-comers-welcome town halls and veterans town halls in El Paso, so he could hear directly from those he represented. He brought their stories with him to Washington—and even though he spent every single day of his six years there in the minority, he found ways to deliver for El Paso and for America.

In Congress, Beto wrote legislation that improved access to mental health care for veterans, providing service members with urgent health resources, and permanently protected thousands of acres of natural land at a time when the Trump administration was cutting public lands. Beto also became a leading voice on the need to honor our veterans and rewrite our immigration laws in our own image.

A strong believer in term limits, Beto promised to only serve four terms in Congress—but for a while, he didn’t know exactly what he would do next.

Until election night, 2016.

When Amy and Beto realized Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States, they asked each other how they’d explain what happened to their children. They discussed what role they could play in this moment of truth for our country.

A few hours later, they had an idea: “What if we ran for Senate?”

 

Beto for Texas

Everyone in their lives thought they were crazy.

The last Democrat to run for Senate in Texas lost by more than 25 points. Trump carried the state by nearly 10. No Democrat had won a Senate race since 1988. And Texas was ranked dead last in voter turnout—not because Texans loved their democracy any less, but because people of color were drawn out of it.

Beto and Amy understood it would be a long-shot, but they decided to run anyway—and to do it differently than anyone ever had in Texas. Taking no money from PACs or corporations. No pollsters. No focus groups. All people, all the time. And Beto would go everywhere—and by everywhere, he meant everywhere.

To each one of Texas’ 254 counties. To listen to the Americans who lived there. Their fears. Their hopes. Their dreams. To bring their stories into his campaign. And to share his vision for our country with them, never equivocating or trimming his sails.

What Beto learned is that when we show up for everyone, when we don’t write anyone off because of how rural or red their community is, when we don’t take anyone for granted no matter how big or blue their community is—we find that we have common cause to do the common good.

While Beto didn’t win that race (he lost by 2.6%, but who’s counting), he won more votes than any Democrat in the history of Texas, won independents for the first time in decades, and won nearly half a million Republican votes—all while saying Trump should be impeached, the sale of assault weapons should be banned, Colin should kneel, Botham should be alive, women should have access to safe and legal abortion, immigrants make our communities stronger and safer, and every American deserves high-quality, guaranteed health insurance.

 

In the process, he galvanized millions of Texans to head to the polls—helping increase young voter turnout by more than 200%, flip two Congressional seats, and elect 17 African American women to judicial positions in Harris county alone, literally changing the face of criminal justice in one of America’s most diverse cities.

During the race, Beto organized a 2,000 person Father’s Day march in Tornillo to raise awareness of family separation. He would return to the desert camp again and again, until all of the children were successfully released and the facility was shut down.

On election night, Beto said he was grateful to every single person who was a part of his campaign and that he was so ******* proud of them.

A few months after the 2018 midterms, President Trump came to El Paso to demonize immigrants and refugees.

Across the street, Beto and thousands of his neighbors came together to show the world what El Paso really stood for.

Looking out at the crowd that night—protesting, peacefully, demonstrating what’s best about America—Beto knew what he’d do next.

On March 14th, 2019, Beto announced he would run for President of the United States.

Beto for America

Beto is campaigning for president the same way he has always campaigned—not with message-tested lines, but by writing no one off and taking no one for granted. By truly bringing everyone in.

Because Beto believes we can’t meet this moment with half-measures or with only half the country. Progress will only come when all of us stand up to build a better country for our kids and for future generations.

That’s why he’s showing up in places politicians never usually go—connecting with people eyeball-to-eyeball, giving others the microphone, and making sure their experiences inform his policy solutions. Reaching out to those who have been written off or left behind.

Farmers and ranchers drowning in debt—and in some cases, literally—as a result of climate change and trade wars. Veterans, without access to mental healthcare, struggling with opioid addiction. Families just one paycheck or prescription away from losing it all. Young students, marching for their lives, met with nothing but thoughts and prayers.

None of them can afford to wait another four years for us to take action.

Beto believes we need to act now to build a future that reflects our shared humanity.

One where students can afford to go to college without crippling debt and seniors can retire with dignity.

Where our economy isn’t only the biggest in the world, but the greatest—because no one needs to work more than one job to put food on the table and everyone is paid a living wage.

Where prescription drugs are affordable and every single American has high-quality, guaranteed health care—including mental and reproductive health care.

Where climate change is seen not only as our greatest existential threat, but as an opportunity to revitalize our economy.

Where our immigration laws are rewritten in our own image and our criminal justice system is rebuilt to reflect our values.

Where America doesn’t measure its strength by how many bombs are in our arsenal, but by our commitment to bringing our global partners together around diplomacy and peace.

Where despite our differences, we are all Americans first.

This campaign is built on the belief that—no matter what you look like, how you worship, or who you love, whether you’ve been here for decades, or you just arrived yesterday—if you’re willing to fight for our future, you’re in the right place.

Join us.