Standing atop a folding chair inside a packed living room, Beto O’Rourke painted himself as a bridge-builder who is running for president not just for Democrats but for democracy itself.
The former congressman, who rose to national prominence last year by almost defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, visited a packed Summerlin home Saturday for a “house party” filled with neighbors and local Democrats. The visit came eight days after officially launching his presidential campaign and was the start of a whirlwind 24-hour Las Vegas visit that also includes stops Sunday at an east side taqueria, a meet-and-greet at a local coffee shop and a meeting with Mujeres Network.
O’Rourke touched upon a variety of issues, including expunging marijuana records in light of widespread legalization across the country, supporting the “fight for $15” movement to raise the minimum wage, and ending the country’s ongoing wars in the middle east.
O’Rourke said he supports “universal, guaranteed, high quality” health care for all but believes the oft-vaunted “Medicare for All” concept may not be the quickest route to achieving that goal. Instead, he expressed interest in “Medicare for America,” a lesser-known proposal that seeks to expand the public option while maintaining private insurance policies for people satisfied with their employer-backed insurance.
Throughout his comments, O’Rourke stressed unity and said he hopes to reach and represent everyone, including rural communities who he said rightly felt like they were forgotten about during the last election, as well as people who don’t have a right to vote because of immigration status or past convictions. He expressed disgust at extreme partisanship within the political climate as a whole.
He made several references to his hometown of El Paso, where he served as a nonpartisan city councilman before a six-year stint as a U.S. representative. He said in the latter role he couldn’t come home and blame President Trump or the majority Republicans for his own inability to pass legislation, so he reached across the aisle and got things done.
O’Rourke boasted that El Paso has been named the safest city in the country and credited that to the community recognizing that immigrants are not to be feared.
“(Immigrants) are not the primary beneficiaries of their presence here,” he said. “We as a country are.”
After speaking, O’Rourke took questions from the crowd and press.
When asked if he would consider a female running mate for vice president, O’Rourke quickly answered “yes” before elaborating that he believes the Democratic ticket should reflect the people within the country.
“It’s difficult for me to imagine anything but (that possibility),” he added.
O’Rourke also stressed that he would not speak negatively about the dozen or so other candidates in the running, saying everyone brings unique perspectives. He suggested he would support whoever becomes the nominee. When specifically asked about Bernie Sanders, the Texan heaped on praise, saying the country owed the Vermont senator “a lot” for pushing forward universal health care and other progressive ideas.
Sanders and O’Rourke both raised impressive amounts of money after formally launching their presidential bids. The O’Rourke campaign announced it raised $6.1 million within its first 24 hours, while the Sanders campaign announced it raised $5.9 million. All other Democratic candidates either did not announce any first-day fundraising totals or raised millions of dollars less.
Like Sanders and several other presidential hopefuls, O’Rourke has promised to accept no money from political action committees, corporations and special interest groups and instead rely on individual donors. O’Rourke stressed to the Summerlin crowd that his campaign would be grassroots: “One living room at a time.”
The 6’4” politician also joked about his predilection for standing atop things not designed to be stood upon: “One chair at a time.”