Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was born on September 26, 1972, in El Paso, Texas, to Pat Francis O’Rourke and Melissa Martha O’Rourke. Given the nickname “Beto,” a common Spanish nickname for names ending in “-berto,” O’Rourke grew up with his two younger sisters. His mother owned a furniture store, and his father served as Country Commissioner and County Judge in El Paso. O’Rourke’s father was originally a Democrat, serving on the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson, but switched parties in the 1990s and unsuccessfully ran for office several times on the Republican ticket.

Beto O’Rourke Bio: Early Life, Hacking, Punk Band & Education

O’Rourke was a member of the hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow as a teenager, helping to distribute tools that allowed ordinary people to hack into computers running Microsoft Windows. Additionally, O’Rourke wrote several poems and texts for the group under a pseudonym, Psychadelic Warlord, taken from a rock song.

O’Rourke spent two years in public high school until switching to Woodberry Forest School, an all-male boarding school in Madison Country, Virginia. Between graduating from high school and entering college, O’Rourke worked as a summer congressional intern for Rep. Ron Coleman (D-Texas). O’Rourke then attended Columbia University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

During his time in college, O’Rourke became a fan of punk music and, with two of his friends from El Paso, learned to play the bass. Along with another Columbia student, O’Rourke and his two friends formed the band Foss. After mild success and some tours, the group disbanded. O’Rourke eventually formed two more bands with some of Foss’ ex-members. Speaking to uPolitics about his career as a rocker, O’Rourke said “Discovering punk rock was discovering rock and roll at its roots and its essence, taking it back to Buddy Holly and the 1950s and the West Texas sound that helped to inspire the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and so many who came after, stripping it down to its roots, making sure we could directly connect with the people who wanted to hear the stories that were being sung”

After graduating from college, O’Rourke started an internet services company called Stanton Street Technology Company in an attempt to both pay the bills and to provide opportunities for the talented youth living in the community, in order to prevent what he saw as an “exodus of talent” from the area.

Early Political Career

O’Rourke often accompanied his father on his political campaigns when he was younger, which put him in contact with the political world early on. However, even with that level of exposure, O’Rourke didn’t develop much of an interest in government as a child. It wasn’t until adulthood that O’Rourke became interested in politics, volunteering for the campaigns of several El Paso politicians.

In 2005, O’Rourke himself finally decided to run for office, attempting to win a seat on the El Paso City Council. Campaigning on a platform that stressed downtown development and border reform, O’Rourke defeated the two-term incumbent. At his first meeting, O’Rourke was unanimously elected mayor pro tem, making him the representative for the city when the mayor was absent. After a year, however, O’Rourke  relinquished the position, saying, “I said I would take it on condition that someone else would do it in a year… I hope it becomes a new tradition that every year, a new mayor pro tem is elected.” During the rest of his tenure on the City Council, O’Rourke fought against the War on Drugs and championed the repeal of marijuana laws.

 

House of Representatives

In 2012, O’Rourke ran for U.S. House of Representatives, challenging the incumbent Democrat. After a very personal campaign, in which O’Rourke reportedly knocked on 16,000 doors, he won the primary election and the subsequent general election in the majority-Latino district.

During his six years in the House, O’Rourke focused largely on border-related issues, undoubtedly influenced by his hometown’s closeness to the Mexican border. He cosponsored the Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act that would overhaul US Customs and Border Protection by increasing oversight and training, as well as require that any deaths caused by an officer’s use of force be reported.

Political Successes:

  • O’Rourke was praised for his bipartisanship during his terms in Congress, a trait that could be very useful in this increasingly polarized country.
  • In 2013 O’Rourke wrote a bill that helped soldiers pay their tuition.
  • He was also a strong proponent of the Honor Our Commitment Act which increases mental health services from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for soldiers with “bad paper” discharges, those who the military discharged rather than deal with their injuries.
  • Continuing with his support for veterans, O’Rourke passed a bill which helped smooth the application process for disability compensation for ex-soldiers.

Senate Race Against Cruz

O’Rourke announced that he would be giving up his House seat in 2018 in order to run for Senate against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Most political strategists called O’Rourke a “longshot candidate,” seeing as he was competing for a historically red seat against Cruz, an incredibly well-funded and powerful incumbent. No Democrat had been elected to statewide office in Texas since 1994, making O’Rourke’s chances look even slimmer.

In an exclusive interview with uPolitics, O’Rourke gave some insight into why he considered himself the best candidate for Texas, and why he thought he had a chance over Cruz. One of the factors that O’Rourke stressed about his campaign was his commitment to each individual Texan, and how he would dedicate himself to serving every member of the state, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. One of the ways that O’Rourke demonstrated this commitment was by refusing to accept money from Political Action Committees (PACs) and special interest groups, instead choosing to rely upon individual donors to fund his campaign. “Running this campaign without any corporate help, without any DNC party bosses, without the consultants, the pollsters, the PACs, the super PACs, the corporations, the special interests is the most honest, raw, authentic, real way to possibly do this, and it feels so good,” O’Rourke told uPolitics.com at SXSW in Austin. O’Rourke stated that he believes that taking money from big donors requires a politician to spend time pandering to that donor that could be spent fighting for the rights of the constituents. O’Rourke also slammed his opponent, Cruz, for accepting millions of dollars in PAC donations.

O’Rourke was able to run his campaign without money from special interest groups because of how talented he was at connecting with his constituents. One of O’Rourke’s signature moves was his decision to visit all 254 counties of Texas, allowing him to meet the voters face to face and display to them that he truly cared. O’Rourke compared that move to his early career as a rocker, saying, “There’s a connection between touring the country in a beat-up station wagon with our amps and a drum kit and a PA four smelly guys sharing our story and listening to the stories in the towns we showed up in. And what we’re doing today across Texas is listening to and being inspired by the people who make this state so great we wanna make this real rock n roll we wanna make this as honest as it could possibly be and I just feel so extraordinarily lucky to be a part of this.”

Contrasting himself to Cruz, who left Texas to campaign for president almost immediately after being sworn in as a senator, O’Rourke painted himself as truly concerned for the wellbeing of those he would represent. “I’m doing my best to represent everyone. Not just Democrats in Texas — all 28 million of us, no matter how young, how old, what party you typically vote for or whether you can vote at all,” he told uPolitics.

O’Rourke quickly made a name for himself in the political world with the efficiency and effectiveness of his fundraising machine, managing to raise $80 million dollars in his fight against Cruz, over $50 million more than the PAC- and establishment-supported incumbent. O’Rourke proved to be particularly gifted at using digital media to appeal to a younger base of voters, spending $10 million on Facebook and Google ads.

All of this proved not to be enough, however, as Cruz still beat out O’Rourke to become the Texas Senator. But, Cruz only managed to do so by a meager 2.6%, a tiny margin for such a powerful incumbent in a solidly red state like Texas.

Domestic Life

O’Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders in 2005 at a ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sanders’ parents were friends with O’Rourke’s parents, with Sanders’ father introducing O’Rourkes’ mother to his father. O’Rourke and his wife live in El Paso, Texas, with their three children.

2020 Campaign

Even though he said that he would not run for office in 2020, regardless of whether he won the Texas Senate seat, O’Rourke announced his campaign for the presidency in March 2019. On the first day of his campaign O’Rourke received over 120,000 individual donors, a number only rivaled by former vice president Joe Biden.

2020 Positions

Healthcare:

  • O’Rourke supports a proposal called “Medicare for America,” which would allow all citizens to buy into public Medicare.
  • However, O’Rourke does not support the more socialist views of opponents such as Bernie Sanders, who advocates for single-payer “Medicare for All” which would not allow individuals to stay with their private health insurance if they preferred to.

Immigration:

  • O’Rourke is not only against Trump’s proposed border wall, but he also wants to tear down existing walls in places such as El Paso.
  • In response to the cries that immigrants bring violence, O’Rourke has pointed to the low crime rates of El Paso, a city adjacent to the Mexico-U.S. border.

Climate Change:

  • O’Rourke is a supporter of green initiatives, stating that climate change could cause massive refugee crises. O’Rourke has released a plan for combatting global warming that includes a $5 trillion grant to reform American infrastructure to be more eco-friendly as well as boost research in clean-energy science.
  • Like many other candidates, O’Rourke’s plan involves a pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Campaign Finance:

  • O’Rourke continues to be against the donations of PACs and special interest groups, instead continuing to focus on individual donors as he did during the 2018 Senate election.

Abortion:

  • O’Rourke is a supporter of abortion but has not released any major pro-abortion legislature.

LGBTQ Rights:

  • O’Rourke is LGBTQ friendly, like most Democrats, and has been a supporter of transgender individuals serving in the military.

Supreme Court/Congressional Issues:

  • O’Rourke advocates for increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court in an attempt to balance out the recent appointments of several conservative justices by Trump.
  • Additionally, O’Rourke has called for the abolishment of the Electoral College, and has released a massive plan to increase voting rights to fight back against minority voter suppression.
  • He is also a supporter of term limits for congressional lawmakers.

Criminal Justice:

  • O’Rourke is against the death penalty, saying that he would abolish it at the federal level. However, in 2017 he voted for the Thin Blue Line Act which allowed prosecutor’s to more easily seek the death sentence for cases involving attacks on law-enforcement.
  • He supports legalizing marijuana, saying that arrests for marijuana possession disproportionately affect minorities.
  • O’Rourke supports the end of for-profit prisons, ending mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes, and reforming the bail process.

Economics:

  • O’Rourke is against the tariffs put in place by Trump, stating that they will devastate the economy
  • He is also against the 2017 tax cuts initiated by the Republicans.
  • O’Rourke was cosponsor on the Promoting US Jobs Through Exports Act of 2015, attempting to raise caps on outstanding loans and insurance for the Export-Import Bank.

Foreign Policy:

  • O’Rourke supported the Iran Nuclear deal
  • He also opposes Trump’s chummy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, advocating for a harsher stance towards Russia for its involvement in the 2016 election hacking.

Gun Control:

  • Even though he is from a traditionally pro-gun state, O’Rourke still supports gun control. In an exclusive interview with uPolitics, O’Rourke supported the idea of universal background checks, as well as a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15, saying, “an AR-15 designed for the sole purpose of killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number as — that AR-15 should be put in the hands of a soldier. not in the hands of a civilian who could use it to slaughter people in a school, in a church, in a concert, on the streets of our cities.”

Trump:

  • In an exclusive interview with uPolitics, O’Rourke criticized Trump for sewing division throughout the country, and lamented that the president was attacking the very structure of American democracy, saying that when you have “Someone who derides members of Congress who do not applaud his speech at the State of the Union as being ‘traitors to the country,’ when we know that the maximum penalty for treason in this country is death, when he’s someone who advocates for walls to keep out Mexicans who he says will rape and kill us, when he wants to ban all Muslims, all people of one religion from the shores of a country, this experiment that is America, this idea that is the United States could end.”
  • He supports the impeachment of Trump, saying that it is not early to begin the proceedings