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Beto 2020: O'Rourke school, history in politics, career

AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideBeto O’Rourke rose to national prominence with his long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. However, he had served in Congress, in city government and in private business before that.Here’s a look at his political and business background.Where did he go to school?He graduated from Columbia University in…

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Beto O’Rourke rose to national prominence with his long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. However, he had served in Congress, in city government and in private business before that.

Here’s a look at his political and business background.

Where did he go to school?

He graduated from Columbia University in 1995 with a degree in English literature. He was the captain of the school’s rowing team, and during the summers, he toured with his punk rock band Foss. O’Rourke attended elementary and junior high school in El Paso and attended El Paso High School for two years, before transferring to Woodberry Forest School, a prestigious boarding school in Virginia.

Beto business career

After graduating, O’Rourke worked a series of jobs in New York, including as a live-in nanny, at his uncle’s tech company, moving fine art, and in publishing. But after a few years he moved back to El Paso.

He founded a web development firm, called Stanton Street, based in El Paso. The company started in 1999 and is still operating. His wife, Amy, took over the company shortly after he was elected to Congress, and she sold her stake when he ran for Senate.

In addition to the tech firm, Stanton Street was also the name of O’Rourke’s short-lived alternative newspaper that was online, and briefly in print.

Elected to City Council

O’Rourke served on El Paso’s City Council from 2005 to 2011. He ran against an incumbent, Anthony Cobos, and even then struck the positive tone that would become a hallmark of his Senate run against Ted Cruz.

His opponent brought up O’Rourke’s past arrests for DWI and burglary, but Cobos also had an arrest on his record, which O’Rourke declined to comment on.

“I don’t see where there is room for personal attacks during a campaign, where the needs of the community are so great and the opportunities are so great,” he told the El Paso Times before the 2005 election.

WHO IS BETO O ROURKE?: Get to know the possible 2020 presidential candidate

After being elected, O’Rourke told the El Paso Times that he was focused on neighborhood improvements, such as funding parks and repairing streetlights. But soon he was tackling a number of much larger issues, some with national implications.

Controversial positions in El Paso

In 2006, he drew criticism over a Downtown redevelopment plan that involved his father-in-law, Bill Sanders. O’Rourke eventually recused himself from all votes and the plan was never implemented, but his initial consideration for use of eminent domain to seize property drew lawsuits and came up during the 2018 Senate race. However, it did not appear to affect him with his constituents. In 2007, one year after the plan was proposed, O’Rourke won re-election to his council seat with 69 percent of the vote.

O’Rourke was a vocal supporter of extending health benefits to unmarried domestic partners of city employees, including same-sex couples. The El Paso council approved the health benefits as part of the 2009 budget, and religious groups spent years fighting the policy. O’Rourke left the City Council to run for Congress, but two of his fellow representatives and the mayor faced recall elections over the policy.

In 2009, O’Rourke became an early advocate for considering the legalization of marijuana. That period marked one of the most violent eras in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. As the cartel war raged, O’Rourke introduced a City Council resolution urging Congress to seriously debate the legalization of drugs, in particular marijuana. The non-binding resolution passed unanimously, but it was vetoed by then-Mayor John Cook and derided by then-Congressman Reyes. Reyes warned such a position could threaten federal funding for the city. El Paso’s state legislators also opposed the resolution. Four city representatives reversed their vote after the veto, and the resolution failed. “It’s a sad day in America when you are threatened by wanting to have an open debate on an issue that is affecting our country and our region,” O’Rourke said at the time. He and a fellow city representative, Susie Byrd, would go on to publish a book in 2011 about the effects of the drug war, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.” And he recently made it a hallmark of his justice plan.

Election to Congress

O’Rourke was the U.S. representative for the 16th Congressional District in El Paso, Texas, through 2018. The district covers El Paso County and includes the city of El Paso, Horizon City and Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post.

O’Rourke was elected to the seat in 2012, after defeating incumbent U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary. He beat Reyes, who had held the seat for 16 years, with 50.47 percent of the vote.

BETO IN IOWA: O’Rourke to make first trip ahead of possible 2020 presidential run

During his three terms in Congress, O’Rourke emerged as a leader in Texas on veterans issues. His committee assignments included the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as well as its subcommittees on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and Strategic Forces, and Health and Economic Opportunity.

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Meet Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso politician who has his sights set on Washington D.C.
Wochit, Wochit

As he prepared for his Senate run, he cultivated a reputation for bipartisanship, taking part in a road trip with Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose sprawling district also includes part of El Paso, to Washington, D.C. They livestreamed their trip and gained thousands of followers along the way.

Challenges Ted Cruz for Senate

During the November 2016 midterm elections, O’Rourke built a national profile with bold positions, relentless campaigning, and continuous livestreams of his travels on Facebook — that launched several viral moments and helped lay the groundwork for a presidential bid.

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Although he eventually lost his long-shot bid in Texas, he came within 3 percentage points of becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide election since 1994, when Bob Bullock was re-elected as lieutenant governor.

O’Rourke’s unconventional style made waves and he says it helped him make personal connections with voters. He didn’t hire a political consultant or a pollster and he refused to accept money from political action committees, but still shattered fund-raising records.

The El Paso Times isn’t just another subscription. With our digital pass, you can get unlimited access to coverage on Beto O’Rourke, the border wall and more local news. Extend your support today for just $1 a month for the first 3 months.

Who is Beto O’Rourke?

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    El Paso's Crime of the Week seeks man who used cloned debit card at East Side Walgreens

    María Cortés González, El Paso Times Published 4:58 p.m. MT March 23, 2019 CLOSE If you know the man who on March 12 walked into the Walgreens at the Fountains at Farah and stole more than $600, you could earn a reward. Courtesy Crime Stoppers of El Paso, El Paso TimesEl Paso police are asking…

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    María Cortés González, El Paso Times
    Published 4:58 p.m. MT March 23, 2019

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    If you know the man who on March 12 walked into the Walgreens at the Fountains at Farah and stole more than $600, you could earn a reward.
    Courtesy Crime Stoppers of El Paso, El Paso Times

    El Paso police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man recorded using a cloned debit card at an East Side ATM.

    The man managed to take more than $600 in repeated withdrawals from the victim’s account in the Crime of the Week.

    At about 8 p.m. March 12, the thief walked into the Walgreens store at the Fountains at Farah shopping center and used the ATM three times.

    Afterward, the man walked out and left the area in a dark colored sedan.

    He is described as Hispanic, in his 20s or early 30s, with a mustache and beard. The suspect was wearing a yellow jacket and black pants.

    Anyone with information on the thief should call Crime Stoppers of El Paso at 566-8477 (TIPS). People also can leave tips online at crimestoppersofelpaso.org

    Tipsters can remain anonymous, and if the information leads to an arrest, they can qualify for a cash reward.

    More: El Paso’s Most Wanted fugitives for the week of March 18, 2019

    More: Fundraiser for El Paso County sheriff’s deputy who was shot in head raises thousands in one day

    María Cortés González may be reached at 546-6150; mcortes@elpasotimes.com; @EPTMaria on Twitter.

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    El Paso police seek man who stole more than $600 using cloned debit card at Walgreens

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    US Rep. Veronica Escobar discusses Heather Wilson, immigration, gun control at town hall

    María Cortés González, El Paso Times Published 2:43 p.m. MT March 23, 2019 Buy PhotoU.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, answered questions about immigration, gun control and the finalist for University of Texas at El Paso president at a town hall meeting Saturday, March 23, 2019, at Project Amistad, 3210 Dyer St. (Photo: Maria Cortes Gonzalez/El…

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    María Cortés González, El Paso Times
    Published 2:43 p.m. MT March 23, 2019

    U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar took on topics important to the community during a town hall Saturday, including the finalist for president of the University of Texas at El Paso, the burgeoning immigration issue and gun laws.

    About 50 people attended the town hall held by the El Paso Democrat at Project Amistad, 3210 Dyer St.

    Members of the We the Students Coalition and a parent of a transgender teen who identifies as male expressed concerns about U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson becoming the next UTEP president. She was selected by the UT System Board of Regents as the sole finalist for the job.

    “Due to her anti-LGBTQ actions, her track record has shown us she does not represent or welcome our values,” said Mario A. Lindsey, a senior history, philosophy and anthropology major at UTEP. He asked Escobar about the possibility of Wilson’s name being withdrawn as a candidate.

    More: UTEP president protest: Groups deliver petition opposing hire of Heather Wilson

    More: Heather Wilson visits UTEP to sell herself as the school’s next president, draws protest

    Escobar said she believes Wilson will unanimously be made president but said she, too, is uncomfortable with the nomination and applauds students for speaking up. She emphasized she will work with Wilson but will hold her accountable.

    “I am going to do my best to walk that fine line of ensuring that UTEP remains successful,” she said, “that I don’t do anything that harms the university or the students there but that I do what I can to protect the vulnerable and lift up their voices and make sure that in my direct conversations with her” they are heard.

    After the meeting, Lindsey said Escobar’s answer was safe but positive, adding that he will remain involved in student government to also hold Wilson accountable for any actions that impact the LGBTQ community.

    Asked about the immigration issue, Escobar said making asylum seekers return to Juárez while they wait on their asylum claims makes a challenging situation worse because it makes it harder for them to access lawyers.

    More: El Paso begins Trump policy that sends migrant asylum seekers back to Mexico

    Escobar: US could learn from Jordan how to handle migrant influx

    Escobar said the United States could learn from how the Jordanian government is handling the immigration influx from Syria. She recently returned from a trip to the Middle East and visited the Jordanian-Syrian border.

    “One point six million Syrians have fled and have come into Jordan. That border is presumably one of the most dangerous borders in the world and has no wall,” she said. “They use technology primarily funded by the American taxpayer. And that’s how they stay secure, and it’s a fraction of what we have been spending on physical barriers.”

    Escobar said the country of Jordan has embraced the refugees and integrated them into the country and is processing them in a couple of hours, instead of days like in El Paso.

    She said she is asking the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow volunteers — such as those from Annunciation House — inside the planned central processing center to expedite the processing of immigrants. The volunteers could be there to assist with contacting sponsors and making transportation arrangements for the migrants’ final destinations, alleviating the local burden of feeding and clothing them before sending them on their way after several days.

    On the topic of gun control, Escobar said she grew up with guns but sees a need for Congress to pass common-sense laws that protect children.

    “Our laws that we are proposing in the U.S. Congress are common-sense laws to close the loopholes and better regulate something that has been undebated in Congress for too long,” she said, adding that the NRA and special interest groups have had an iron grip on the issue.

    More: El Paso students join live national school walkout against gun violence

    María Cortés González may be reached at 546-6150; mcortes@elpasotimes.com; @EPTMaria on Twitter.

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    U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar Speaks at El Paso Womens March
    Mark R Lambie, El Paso Times

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