Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz for his Senate seat in Texas with a campaign focused on an anti-Trump, pro-immigration attack. The crazy part is, it could actually work.
Cruz has held his Senate seat since 2012. Meanwhile, O’Rourke has represented Texas in the House’s 16th congressional district since 2012. The 16th district borders Mexico and is predominately Hispanic giving O’Rourke support from the Hispanic community. Until now, that support wasn’t very important in a Texas Senate race. However, Trump’s recent family separation policy has disturbed the natural order of the the state’s deeply red political landscape.
57 percent of Texans strongly oppose the separation of migrant children from their parents at the Texas border. Cruz heard his constituents’ outcries and attempted to draft a bill to fix it, instead of signing the Keep Families Together Act. On the surface, Cruz’s bill appeared to fix Trump’s error in judgment. The bill would keep families together and “adjudicate asylum claims” within 14 days. Yet the bill wasn’t realistic. With just a little more research, Cruz would have known that the average asylum case takes more than two weeks because it can take a lawyer around 50 hours for just one case. Ultimately, Cruz’s bill was an attempt to give false hope while presenting himself as a savior.
O’Rourke’s stance on immigration is clear, and he’s been delivering it across Texas directly to the citizens in local bars. He speaks fluent Spanish, represents a largely Hispanic district and is often described as “empathetic” when he speaks about immigration. O’Rourke’s stance on immigration was muddled when it came to his position on abolishing ICE. However, following criticism from Cruz he stated, “I want to make sure we are ending the practices of taking kids from their families. I want to focus on ending the practices.” Ultimately, O’Rourke’s statement falls in line with what the majority of Texans want.
O’Rourke has embraced his anti-Trump narrative while Cruz has leaned further to the right and voted 91.9 percent in line with Trump’s positions. In June, O’Rourke stepped up his campaign in what Politico referred to as “Beto-mania.” O’Rourke is everywhere, campaigning all over Texas against the zero-tolerance policy and even singing pro-pot songs with Willie Nelson at the annual “Willie’s Picnic” in Austin.
O’Rourke has a musical history after playing in a rock band called Foss while completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His campaign is traveling across the state holding “Beers for Beto” fundraisers that include booze and live music at local bars. O’Rourke has vowed to not take campaign contributions from corporations with special interests or PACS, unlike Cruz. As a result, O’Rourke’s fundraisers are casual hangouts where Texans gather together and get to know the candidate who is empathetic about Texas’s immigration crises. O’Rourke said, “I don’t want you worried that when I’m taking a vote, making a decision, writing a bill, looking at an amendment, that I’m listening to anyone but you, the people that I want to serve and that I want to represent.”
O’Rourke is listening to the people he wants to serve and represent. His speeches have largely focused on what the citizens of Texas need more than partisan politics. When asked about Democratic stances that most Republican Texans would not agree with, such as abortion and women’s rights, he responds with a Texas centered answer:
“What I’m hearing from Texans, regardless of party, is they don’t like that we lead the country now in the rate of maternal mortality. That we lead the country right now in the rate of repeat teen pregnancy. That as we made it harder for women to get access to healthcare and make their own decisions about their own bodies we’ve seen a spike in abortions performed in the state. No one wants to see those things come to pass. All of us need to get together and find the common ground that will allow them to address it.”
Cruz currently holds a five-point lead over O’Rourke according to the most recent poll. This lead is drastically less than the 11-point lead that Cruz held at the end of May, which means it could drop more before November.
Despite O’Rourke’s pledge to only take independent campaign contributions, he has raised $4 million more than Cruz. Town hall meetings, local bars and restaurants, college auditoriums and causal outside venues have been packed with Texans as O’Rourke travels across the state campaigning for the people of Texas who have been disrupted due to Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. His down-to-earth grass roots angle is exactly the attack that could steal the seat away from Cruz.