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Who is Beto O'Rourke? Get to know the 2020 presidential candidate

CLOSE Meet Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso politician who has his sights set on Washington D.C. Wochit, WochitWhen Beto O’Rourke decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, few people outside his hometown of El Paso knew his name.But during the November 2016 midterm elections, he built a national profile with bold positions, relentless…

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

When Beto O’Rourke decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, few people outside his hometown of El Paso knew his name.

But during the November 2016 midterm elections, he 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.

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. As an even larger national audience is introduced to O’Rourke, here’s what they need to know — about his political background, his stances on key issues, and his dietary preferences.

Who is Beto O’Rourke?

His band, famous friends

While on breaks from school In the 1990s, he got involved in El Paso’s punk scene and played bass in the punk rock band Foss with Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who would go on to found At-the-Drive-In and the Mars Volta.

BETO’S BACKGROUND: Beto 2020: O’Rourke school, history in politics, career

Maybe Beto can’t debate Ted Cruz because he already had plans… pic.twitter.com/LdqKTh3yK4

— Texas GOP (@TexasGOP) August 28, 2018

The band toured during his summer breaks from Columbia, and a picture of O’Rourke with his band became fodder for the Texas GOP during the Senate campaign. 

BETO’S NICKNAME: Beto O’Rourke’s family has always called him ‘Beto.’ Here’s why.

Beto O’Rourke’s wife, children

O’Rourke married his wife, Amy, in 2005 and they have three young children: Ulysses, Molly and Henry. Amy O’Rourke, who is nine years younger than Beto O’Rourke, is the daughter of William “Bill” Sanders, a real estate mogul whose net worth was estimated at about $500 million by Forbes magazine.

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Here are five facts about Beto O’Rourke’s wife, Amy Sanders O’Rourke
Wochit, Wochit

O’Rourke’s parents, siblings

O’Rourke followed his father into politics. Patrick Francis O’Rourke served as a county commissioner and county judge in El Paso. He was elected as a Democrat, but in the late 1990s, he ran an unsuccessful race to reclaim the county judge spot as a Republican. He died in an accident in 2001, when a car struck his recumbent bicycle.

PROSECUTORS: Beto O’Rourke on hit list of Coast Guard lieutenant in domestic terror case

O’Rourke’s mother, Melissa, operated three furniture stores in El Paso, but announced the closure of the last one, Charlotte’s Furniture, in 2017. The announcement came after her son had launched his Senate campaign, but she said at the time that her decision was unrelated. “For me, it’s my personal life,” she said. “I’m just ready to call it.”O’Rourke is the oldest of three children. His two sisters are Erin and Charlotte.

Know your Beto memes

O’Rourke became Internet famous even before officially announcing his Senate run when he and Republican lawmaker streamed their drive to Washington, D.C., via Facebook. O’Rourke’s fame only grew as he had dozens of meme-able moments throughout the campaign. Here are some of the highlights:

BIPARTISAN ROAD TRIP: Congressmen Beto O’Rourke, Will Hurd win bipartisanship award

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U.S. Reps. Beto O’Rourke and Will Hurd explain why they are driving to Washington D.C.
Courtesy Beto O’Rourke Facebook

WHATABETO: Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz beef over Whataburger

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Beto and Willie Nelson Draw Over 50,000 at Turn Out rally

BETO O’ROURKE: tells Oprah he will decide on 2020 run ‘before the end of this month

New friends: Ellen Degeneres, Willie Nelson, Ethan Hawke, LeBron James, Beyonce

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As his Senate campaign gained momentum, celebrities took notice.

BETO’S RESUME

In business before politics, education

Before he got into politics, he founded a web development firm, called Stanton Street, based in El Paso. The company started in 1999 and is still operating. Stanton Street was also the name of O’Rourke’s short-lived online, and briefly print, alternative newspaper.

Beto O’Rourke on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: ‘This is a problem that all of us own’

IMMIGRATION:border security central to Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke Senate race

He returned to El Paso after graduating from New York’s Columbia University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He attended El Paso High School in El Paso, but graduated from a prestigious boarding school in Virginia, Woodberry Forest School.

Beto’s time on the El Paso City Council

Before running for Congress, O’Rourke served on El Paso’s City Council from 2005 to 2011. When he was first 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.

Background in 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 O’ROURKE: Is His 2018 Texas Senate loss a 2020 presidential race pro or con

Beto rally

Beto O’Rourke did not announce whether he would run for president at a protest in El Paso on February 11, but that didn’t stop attendees from treating the event like a campaign rally for their former congressman.

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Former Rep. and Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke Monday at a protest to President Donald Trump’s El Paso rally.
Chris Kolenc, Special to the El Paso Times

The protest, aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s event in El Paso on the same night, had all the trappings of a campaign rally and vendors urged attendees to purchase “Beto 2020” buttons, hats, T-shirts and flags outside the event.

DUELING RALLIES: Here’s what Trump and Beto El Paso rallies actually looked like

O’Rourke is considering a presidential run in 2020 and said he will make an announcement by the end of the month. But for many supporters, news of his decision is not coming soon enough.

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.

Beto 2020 … It’s official

Beto O’Rourke, 46, who was a little known congressman from El Paso when Trump was elected, officially entered the 2020 presidential race Thursday, ending months of speculation that began after the Democrat narrowly lost a Senate seat in reliably red Texas.

Democrat Beto O'Rourke, shown at his home in Sunset Heights in El Paso, officially entered the presidential race Thursday morning and immediately became the focus of Republican attacks.

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Beto O'Rourke and his wife, Amy Sanders O'Rourke, at their El Paso home in the Sunset Heights neighborhood.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home.

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Beto O'Rourke sits in his home alongside his wife, Amy Sanders O'Rourke, on Tuesday in his Sunset Heights home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke and his wife Amy Sanders O'Rourke at their El Paso home in the Sunset Heights neighborhood of El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home.

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Beto O'Rourke and Amy Sanders O'Rourke at their home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke is shown at his home in El Paso.

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Beto O'Rourke sits beside his wife, Amy.

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El Pasoan Beto O'Rourke sits in the living room of his Sunset Heights home.

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Democrat Beto O'Rourke, shown at his home in Sunset Heights in El Paso, officially entered the presidential race Thursday morning.

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Beto O'Rourke at his home.

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EXCLUSIVE: Beto O’Rourke discusses run for president, why he’s the one to battle Trump on border

President Donald Trump mocks Beto after 2020 announcement, asks if he is crazy

GOP calls O’Rourke ‘America’s nightmare’ after he announces 2020 presidential run

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Beto 2020 announcement video: O’Rourke announces he will run for president in video, calls this time “a defining moment of truth” for the nation.
Courtesy of Beto O’Rourke campaign, El Paso Times

Beto merch? Yes, please

O’Rourke is keeping his vaguely Whataburger spicy ketchup-esque theme that he used for his T-shirts and lawn signs during his Senate race. Items such as totes, stickers and shirts are already available for purchase on O’Rourke’s website.

Beto O’Rourke 2020 merchandise available from campaign, fan sites

BETO’S POLICIES

Beto O’Rourke has been called both too liberal by the right and too conservative by the left. Read a roundup of his policies and the criticisms.

Focus on veterans

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.

TRUMP IN EL PASO: Dueling rallies roil through Sun City

Controversy over use of eminent domain

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.

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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.

Marijuana legalization

Also in 2009, O’Rourke became an early voice to consider 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.

VIEWS ON MARIJUANA, US JUSTICE SYSTEM : Beto O’Rourke renews call for legalizing marijuana as 2020 speculation continues

RELATED: Beto talks drugs, wages, women’s rights and Tinder in Iowa

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“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.”

Same-sex benefits for city employees

O’Rourke also was a vocal supporter of extending health benefits to unmarried domestic partners of city employees, including same-sex couples. The 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.

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Dona Ana

Car accident kills three, including an El Paso man, Sunday in New Mexico

Sun-News report Published 9:00 a.m. MT March 26, 2019 | Updated 9:01 a.m. MT March 26, 2019CLOSE Do you know what to do if you’re in an accident? WochitHIDALGO COUNTY — A fiery crash along Interstate 10 in western New Mexico claimed three lives, including an El Paso man.New Mexico State Police responded to the fatal…

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Sun-News report
Published 9:00 a.m. MT March 26, 2019 | Updated 9:01 a.m. MT March 26, 2019

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Do you know what to do if you’re in an accident?
Wochit

HIDALGO COUNTY — A fiery crash along Interstate 10 in western New Mexico claimed three lives, including an El Paso man.

New Mexico State Police responded to the fatal head-on collision at mile marker 19, near Lordsburg, about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 24.

Police said a 2015 Freightliner semi-truck was traveling east on Interstate 10, when, for unknown reasons, it crossed the center median and hit a west-bound 2013 Kenworth semi-truck head on. The Freightliner’s trailer hit a 1999 Dodge pickup that was also traveling west. Both semi-trucks caught on fire.

Three people died in the crash: Sean White, 50, of West Covina, California, was the driver of the Freightliner; Jose Apodaca, 47, of El Paso, was the driver of the Kenworth; and Susan Rojo, 47, of Sierra Vista, Arizona, was a passenger in the Dodge.

A 51-year-old male driving the Dodge and a 13-year-old female passenger in the pickup, both believed to be from Arizona, were transported to an area hospital with critical injuries.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor and seat belt use has not been determined. Police are continuing to investigate.

More: A train hit a pedestrian in an El Paso crash Tuesday morning

More: Car accident kills 11-year-old boy Sunday in East El Paso

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Beto campaign manager was aide to Barack Obama in 2012, signals shift in O'Rourke strategy

John C Moritz, El Paso Times Published 6:03 p.m. MT March 25, 2019 | Updated 7:37 a.m. MT March 26, 2019CLOSE Linguist Roberto Perezdiaz sheds light on the pronunciation and mispronunciation of the nickname ‘Beto.’ Mark R Lambie, El Paso TimesThe move signals the former El Paso congressman is willing to invest in top political…

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John C Moritz, El Paso Times
Published 6:03 p.m. MT March 25, 2019 | Updated 7:37 a.m. MT March 26, 2019

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Linguist Roberto Perezdiaz sheds light on the pronunciation and mispronunciation of the nickname ‘Beto.’
Mark R Lambie, El Paso Times

The move signals the former El Paso congressman is willing to invest in top political talent as he seeks to emerge from a crowded field of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination.

A former top strategist for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election effort is joining Texan Beto O’Rourke as a campaign manager for his 2020 presidential bid.

The addition of Jen O’Malley Dillon gives O’Rourke a seasoned, high-level operative as he attempts to distinguish himself in a crowded field of candidates seeking to challenge President Donald Trump next year.

“We’re exited that Jen O’Malley Dillon has joined our team,” O’Rourke said Monday in text message forwarded by his campaign. “Her leadership and creativity will be a great addition to a campaign that is already doing so much to bring people together to overcome the greatest set of challenges this country has ever faced.”

I’m so excited to join the @betoorourke team and get to work building a campaign that will lift people up and unite them to meet our challenges, and that will show up everywhere and listen to & value every voice.

— Jen O’Malley Dillon (@jomalleydillon) March 25, 2019

O’Malley Dillon was Obama’s deputy campaign manager. She said in a series of tweets that as a mother of two she wants to make a better world for her children. Her hiring was first reported by the New York Times.

“I’m so excited to join the @betoorourke team and get to work building a campaign that will lift people up and unite them to meet our challenges, and that will show up everywhere and listen to & value every voice,” she said in one of the tweets.

MORE: Beto O’Rourke campaign announces location for El Paso rally

She added, “and not gonna lie, pretty excited for our kids to get a chance to live in El Paso, where” her husband grew up.

Her husband, Patrick Dillon, was the deputy director of political affairs and special assistant to Obama.

O’Malley Dillon is a co-founder of the political communications firm, Precision Strategies, which worked for Obama in 2012 and also represents the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, according to its website.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said the hiring of O’Malley Dillon is a signal O’Rourke recognizes that he cannot run his presidential bid with the same seat-of-the pants style that became a trademark in his narrow loss to U.S.Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas last year.

“Getting someone who knows what it takes to win, especially an old Obama hand, is huge,” Rottinghaus said. “Going from a U.S. Senate campaign to a presidential campaign is like going from the minor leagues to the major leagues. This says Beto knows he needs top talent.”

MORE: Beto fundraising record: $6.1 million from donors is an ‘important number’ for O’Rourke

O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman, gave up a safe Democratic seat representing El Paso to challenge Cruz. He entered the presidential race March 14 and immediately hit the road to campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary and caucus states on next year’s political calendar.

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Days after saying he would join the presidential race, O’Rourke said he had raised $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after his formal announcement — the biggest first-day haul of any of the announced Democrats. He edged Bernie Sanders’ $5.9 million, raised from 223,000 individual donors. The O’Rourke campaign said later that it received 128,000 unique contributions.

O’Rourke plans what he’s calling a “launch” on Saturday with a morning rally in El Paso to be followed by two more home-state rallies — one in Houston that afternoon and a nighttime event in Austin, a block from the Texas Capitol.

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A train hit a pedestrian in an El Paso crash Tuesday morning

Aaron Martinez, El Paso Times Published 7:32 a.m. MT March 26, 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 TimesA pedestrian was struck by a…

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Aaron Martinez, El Paso Times
Published 7:32 a.m. MT March 26, 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

A pedestrian was struck by a train early Tuesday morning in the Upper Valley, officials said.

The incident happened at Spur 16 and Doniphan Drive near Canutillo High School, El Paso Police Department officials said.

The pedestrian’s current condition and name were not released.

The El Paso Police Department’s Special Traffic Investigations unit is investigating the accident.

No further information has been released.

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Aaron Martinez may be reached at 546-6249; aamartinez@elpasotimes.com; @AMartinez31 on Twitter.

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