Four months after narrowly losing a bid for U.S. Senate, Beto O’Rourke on Thursday morning announced in a video that he is running for president.
“This is a defining moment of truth for this country, and for every single one of us,” O’Rourke said in a video announcement posted on his Facebook page.
O’Rourke, who kicked off his campaign in Iowa on Thursday, will look to distinguish himself with a message of national unity and change while several other candidates in a crowded Democratic field of progressives have made major policy proposals.
To that end, O’Rourke, who visited South Texas 10 times during his 2018 Senate campaign, was asked about various policies on Thursday at multiple town halls in Iowa as he began campaigning. Beyond a multi-day trip to Iowa, the only other public event on O’Rourke’s schedule is his official campaign launch on March 30 in El Paso, his hometown and the place he represented as a member of Congress from his 2012 election until just a few months ago.
One of O’Rourke’s former border colleagues, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, said he was glad to see O’Rourke in the race.
“I think it’s significant that we have someone from the border running for president,” Vela said. “I don’t think anybody in that race knows what it’s like.”
But Vela, who said he donated $2,000 to O’Rourke on Thursday, stopped short of endorsing O’Rourke or any other candidate, at least for now. Vela said he also donated $2,000 to Julian Castro when the former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Obama announced his candidacy.
Castro, within an hour of O’Rourke’s video announcement, released a list of 30 mostly Hispanic Texas Democratic endorsements, including many Rio Grande Valley lawmakers. Included on the Castro endorsement list were state Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; state Reps. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Palmview, Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.
Some of these same lawmakers campaigned for O’Rourke in his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but Martinez said the Castro campaign asked and he said yes, and it was unclear at the time if O’Rourke was going to run.
Speculation that O’Rourke would run for president began shortly after the former El Paso congressman lost November’s midterm election to Cruz by 2.6 percent, the closest a Democrat has come to winning a Senate seat in Texas in decades. National Democrats were attracted to O’Rourke’s record-breaking $80 million raised during his campaign, compared to Cruz’s $37 million, also a record.
O’Rourke spent recent months at home in El Paso with family, driving through the Midwest and journaling about it online and a few public appearances, such as a Metallica concert and leading a rally outside a President Trump rally in El Paso. The week O’Rourke lost the Senate race, President Obama called to congratulate him, and to invite O’Rourke to sit down and talk, if O’Rourke was interested.
“I raised it with — ‘Some people who I really respect have asked me to think about running for president,’” O’Rourke said in a Vanity Fair interview published on Wednesday. “He asked about: What will this do to my family? Is this the right thing for the country? Do I see a path to win? Do I see something that I uniquely can provide, for what the country needs right now?”