With the vital mid-term elections just hours away in the United States, many eyes have turned to the Texas Senate race between incumbent Republican, Ted Cruz, and Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, as the pulse check as to whether voters are softening on President Trump’s rhetoric.
History tells us that no Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas in 24 years. According to the Associated Press, that is the longest losing streak in the nation. Adding to that grim statistic is the fact that Ted Cruz was a viable challenger for President of the United States in the previous election, while many pundits cited a name recognition problem for O’Rourke as recently as April.
Since Texas has long-since been a Republican stronghold, Cruz’s campaign attempted to discredit O’Rourke by painting the candidate as a “cool” guy. This meant digging up an old album cover of O’Rourke when he was in a band called “Foss” which featured bandmate, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who would go on to front Mars Volta and At the Drive-In.
Other digs included O’Rourke’s love for skateboarding which he has never been shy about (he did a Thrasher Magazine interview) and even rolled across the stage at a campaign event in Corpus Christi.
Then something strange started to happen. What were meant to be attack ads against O’Rourke began having the opposite effect. Texas voters were intrigued by a politician who cited musical influences like Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, the Clash’s London Calling, and Dischord Records, and waxed poetic about his first Powell Peralta Tony Hawk skateboard with pizza griptape.
O’Rourke likened his newfound popularity to the DIY attitude instilled in both skating and punk rock, saying, “no one defines the rules or opportunities or the limits of what you can achieve. You come up with your own stuff, tell your own story as honestly as you can, and listen to others. And, yeah, there’s something very DIY about what we’re doing right now with this campaign.”
As a result of his transparency, tastemakers like LeBron James donned a “Beto O’Rourke for Senate” hat while playing in San Antonio, and Texas native, Travis Scott, joined the candidate at a rally at Bayland Community Center in Houston.
“You just need to go out, hit these polls,” Scott said. “We need to just tell our peers, man, to step out and vote.”
As Kanye West recently proved, a celebrity’s own political views don’t always align with that of his fanbase. Thus, James and Scott’s support of O’Rourke shouldn’t necessarily sway those who have the ability to vote in the Texas election.
For those wanting a better picture of O’Rourke’s candidacy beyond his popular culture relevance, here’s where he stands on the major issues.
Beto O’Rourke’s political history
O’Rourke has served in Congress since 2012 as the U.S. representative for the 16th congressional district in El Paso. He unseated the incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, who had the job for 16 years. Prior to that, he served on El Paso’s City Council between 2005 and 2011.
Beto O’Rourke on abortion
O’Rourke voted against a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks because “it would endanger the lives and health of women in Texas.” As such, he fully supports a woman’s right to choose.
Beto O’Rourke on guns
According to his official campaign language, O’Rourke believes that Texas “should lead the way in preserving the Second Amendment while working together to ensure people can live without fear of gun violence in their communities.”
This means stronger background checks, closing the gun show, online, and boyfriend loopholes, the stopping of selling weapons of war and high-capacity magazines, and opposing Concealed Carry Reciprocity in which all U.S. states recognize concealed carry permits granted by other states.
Beto O’Rourke on LGBTQ issues
Should O’Rourke win, he’s called for the repealing of the Defense of Marriage (DOMA) Act which denies same sex couples equal access to benefits like social security. He also supports the Equality Act, proposed legislation that would provide the same nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQIA Americans as any other protected class under federal law.
Beto O’Rourke on immigration
O’Rourke is against President Trump’s plans to build a wall along the United States and Mexican border. He’s also called for Congress to pass legislation preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which protects people illegally brought to the country as children from being deported.
Beto O’Rourke on the environment
The Democratic challenger believes in climate change. As a result, he wants the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, find new and renewable sources of energy, have more EPA oversight into drilling, fracking, and pipeline construction, and stronger land-use policies in Texas.
Beto O’Rourke on marijuana laws
In 2011, O’Rourke wrote a book with El Paso City Council member, Susie Byrd, called Dealing Death and Drugs. O’Rourke argues that the war on drugs has been an institutional failure which has only made drug dealers richer. As a result, he believes in decriminalizing marijuana and wiping clean the criminal records of people who are convicted of marijuana possession.
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