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Beto O'Rourke
Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (/ˈbɛtoʊ/; born September 26, 1972) is an American politician and businessman serving as the U.S. Representative for Texas's

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Beto O'Rourke Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th district Incumbent Assumed office
January 3, 2013Preceded by Silvestre ReyesMember of the El Paso City Council
from the 8th district In office
June 1, 2005 – June 27, 2011Preceded by Anthony CobosSucceeded by Cortney Niland Personal detailsBorn Robert Francis O'Rourke
(1972-09-26) September 26, 1972 (age 45)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.Political party DemocraticSpouse(s) Amy Hoover Sanders (m. 2005)Children 3Education Columbia University (BA)Website House website

Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (/ˈbɛtoʊ/; born September 26, 1972) is an American politician and businessman serving as the U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district since 2013. He is the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2018 Texas U.S. Senate race, running against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

A native of El Paso, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2012 by defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary that year. The district includes most of El Paso County. Prior to his election to Congress, O'Rourke was on the El Paso City Council from June 2005 to June 2011.

  • 1 Early life, education and music career
  • 2 Business career (1995–2005)
  • 3 El Paso City Council (2005–2011)
  • 4 U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present)
    • 4.1 Elections
    • 4.2 Committee assignments
  • 5 2018 Senate campaign
  • 6 Political views
    • 6.1 Bipartisanship
    • 6.2 Drug policy
    • 6.3 Veterans
    • 6.4 Criminal justice reform
    • 6.5 Abortion
    • 6.6 LGBT rights
    • 6.7 Immigration
    • 6.8 Health care
    • 6.9 Gun policy
    • 6.10 Trump–Putin Summit
    • 6.11 Israel
    • 6.12 Racial inequality
    • 6.13 Other
    • 6.14 2016 endorsements
  • 7 Personal life
  • 8 Publications
  • 9 Note
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links
Early life, education and music career

O'Rourke is a fourth-generation Irish American,[1] born in El Paso, the son of Melissa Martha (Williams) and El Paso County Judge[a] Pat Francis O'Rourke.[2][3][4] He was nicknamed "Beto", which is a common Spanish nickname for "Roberto", before kindergarten.[5][6] His father was a political associate of former Texas Governor Mark White. Judge O'Rourke was killed in July 2001, at the age of fifty-eight, when he was struck from behind by a car while riding his bicycle over the New Mexico state line.[7]

O'Rourke attended Carlos Rivera and Mesita Elementary Schools and El Paso High School. He graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1991. In the early 1990s, he was a bassist[8] in the band Foss, which included Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocalist for At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta) on vocals and drums, Arlo Klahr on vocals and guitar, and Mike Stevens on vocals and guitar. The group released a self-titled demo and a 7" record, "The El Paso Pussycats", on Western Breed Records in 1993. They released a subsequent album, Fewel Street, in 1995, also on Western. Foss toured the United States and Canada in the summer of 1993 and again, along with Bixler's concurrent band, Los Dregtones, in the summer of 1994.

O'Rourke attended Columbia University where he captained Columbia's rowing crew.[9] He graduated from Columbia in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature.[10][11] He is fluent in Spanish.[12]

O'Rourke was arrested by University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) police in 1995 on burglary charges after jumping a fence on the university's property.[13][14] The UTEP police department later declined to pursue charges.[14] In 1998, O'Rourke was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), but the charges were later dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program.[11][13][14] [15] He has publicly discussed the incident since that time and has apologized for it.[16]

Business career (1995–2005)

Following college, O'Rourke worked at Internet service providers in New York City[17] before his return to El Paso in 1998.[18] The following year, he co-founded Stanton Street Technology, an internet services and software company that develops websites and software.[17][19] His wife, Amy, operates the business as of March 2017.[20]

El Paso City Council (2005–2011)

In mid-2005, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council and defeated two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos, 57%–43%.[21][22] O'Rourke is one of the youngest representatives to have ever served on the City Council.[23] In 2007, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Trini Acevedo, 70%–30%.[24][25]

In January 2009, O'Rourke sponsored a resolution calling for a "comprehensive examination" of the War on Drugs and "the repeal of ineffective marijuana laws".[26] The resolution, which was unanimously supported by his colleagues on the El Paso City Council, was vetoed by then-Mayor John Cook and spurred a larger national discussion on the topic.[26][27][28] He told reporters that the reason he decided to speak up about what he called the failed war on drugs was the thousands of people who have been killed in the drug war in the adjoining city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.[29] "I hope it has all had its intended effect of starting the national discussion of the wisdom of the war on drugs and probably more importantly, helping to bring about a better solution than the status quo, which has led to the terror and tragedy in Juarez."[30]

U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present) Elections


Main article: United States House of Representatives elections in Texas, 2012 § District 16

In 2012, O'Rourke filed for the Democratic primary against the eight-term Silvestre Reyes to represent Texas's 16th congressional district. The primary was seen as the real contest in this deeply Democratic, Latino-majority district.[12] O'Rourke took 50.5 percent of the vote, just a few hundred votes above the threshold required to avoid a runoff against Reyes.[31] He was contrasted with Reyes in his support for LGBT rights[32] and drug liberalization.[33] He defeated his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, in the general election with 65 percent of the vote.[34]


O'Rourke was re-elected in 2014 with 67% of the vote.

During the fall of 2014, O'Rourke donated at least $28,000 from his own campaign funds to fellow Democratic candidates for House seats.[35]


In October 2015, O'Rourke announced his bid for a third term in 2016.[36] He won the Democratic primary and defeated his Green and Libertarian opponents in the general election.[37]

Committee assignments
  • Committee on Armed Services
    • Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
    • Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
  • Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Caucus memberships

  • New Democrat Coalition[38]
  • Congressional Arts Caucus[39]
2018 Senate campaign Main article: United States Senate election in Texas, 2018

On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Party member Ted Cruz.[40] O'Rourke raised $2 million within the first three months, mostly from small donations. O'Rourke pledged during the campaign not to accept PAC contributions for his Senate campaign.[41][42] During the campaign, PolitiFact rated his claim of not taking PAC money as "true".[43]

In March 2018, O'Rourke became the Democratic Party nominee, winning 61.8% of the primary vote.[44] He received his first major organizational endorsement from End Citizens United in June 2017,[45] which found that he had raised triple the funds of Cruz without accepting corporate special interest money.[46]

Political views

O'Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, which is described as moderate or centrist.[38] He is sometimes considered to be a progressive or liberal Democrat.[47][48] The non-partisan National Journal gave O'Rourke a composite ideology of 85% liberal and 15% conservative in 2013.[49] Describing himself, O'Rourke has said that he does not know where he falls on the political spectrum, and he has sponsored bipartisan bills as well as broken with his party on issues like free trade.[50] GovTrack places Representative O'Rourke near the ideological center of the House Democrats, being to the right of some and to the left of others; the American Civil Liberties Union gave him an 88% rating, while the United States Chamber of Commerce, a more fiscally conservative group, gave him a 47% rating.[51] According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional voting records, O'Rourke has voted in line with President Trump's position on legislation 28.7% of the time as of August 2018.[52]


Allegheny College bestowed the 2018 Prize for Civility in Public Life to O'Rourke together with Will Hurd, a Texas Republican. In March 2017, facing snowstorm induced flight cancellations O’Rourke and Hurd, both stuck in San Antonio, needed to get back to Washington for a House vote. They rented a car and embarked on a 1,600-mile drive that they captured on Facebook Live.[53][54][55] O'Rourke and Hurd have worked collaboratively on important legislation since the road trip.[56]

Drug policy

O'Rourke favors the decriminalization of possession and sale of small amounts of cannabis.[57] In 2011, O'Rourke co-authored a book, Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, which in part argues for an end to the prohibition on marijuana.[58][59] He has called for the arrest records of individuals sentenced for possession of small amounts of cannabis to be expunged.[57] During the 2018 Senate campaign, O'Rourke's opponent, Ted Cruz, falsely claimed that O'Rourke sought to legalize heroin; what he had actually called for in 2009 was an "honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics".[57]


O'Rourke has held monthly veterans town hall meetings since he was elected in 2013.[60] Hearing about long wait times, especially regarding mental health, he did his own local survey of veterans. The results of his survey showed wait times far exceeding what the VA was reporting. To try to better meet veteran's needs, O'Rourke and others worked to establish a new program at the El Paso VA designed to care for military related health issues within the hospital while using community clinics or medical facilities in the area for more standard medical needs.[61]

O'Rourke co-sponsored the bipartisan bill H.R. 1604, the Veterans' Mental Health Care Access Act, with Republican Congressmen Tom MacArthur, which expanded options for veterans seeking mental health care to non-VA facilities.[62][63] O'Rourke serves on both the House Veterans' Affairs Committee,[64] and the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military installations such as Fort Bliss, headquartered in El Paso.[65]

Criminal justice reform

O'Rourke has called for an end to cash bail, saying it disproportionately places poor individuals in jail as they cannot afford bail.[57]


O'Rourke has a lifetime score of 100% from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and a rating of 100% from NARAL Pro-Choice America.[66][67] He voted against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which made a permanent prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortions and made reforms to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to prohibit qualified health plans from including coverage for abortions.[68][non-primary source needed]

LGBT rights

O'Rourke told the Dallas Voice that he called marriage equality a core civil rights issue during his House primary campaign. While on the El Paso City Council, O'Rourke led a successful fight to overturn the domestic partnership ban.[69] He was a co-sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 3135).[70]


O'Rourke favors comprehensive immigration reform.[71] O'Rourke opposed Trump's decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which granted temporary stay to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.[72][73] O'Rourke said it is a "top priority" to protect DREAMers.[72] He has criticized President Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration, saying: " constantly stoking anxiety and fear about Mexicans, immigrants and the border with Mexico. Unfortunately this President takes another step into a dark world of fear, isolation and separation."[7][74]

Ted Cruz asserted in 2018 that O'Rourke wanted "open borders and wants to take our guns."[75] PolitiFact found that Cruz's claims were "false," noting that O'Rourke had "not called for opening the borders or for government agents to take guns from law-abiding residents."[75]

In June 2018, O'Rourke led protests in Tornillo, Texas, to protest the Trump administration family separation policy which involved the separation of children of immigrant families. The city is located just miles from the Rio Grande, the river that creates the border of the United States and Mexico in the state of Texas. The Trump administration had created a "tent-city" in Tornillo, where separated children were being held without their parents. O'Rourke called this practice "Un-American" and the responsibility of all Americans.[76][77]

Health care

O'Rourke has expressed support for single-payer legislation to achieve universal health coverage,[78] but has released a statement saying he's critical of John Conyers' Medicare For All bill (HR 676) for not allocating funds toward for-profit healthcare providers.[79][80] He supports stabilization of the insurance markets to improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He also supports the expansion of Medicaid[81][82] and is a co-sponsor of the Medicare-X Choice Act of 2017.[83]

Gun policy

On the evening of June 22, 2016, O'Rourke participated in the sit-in in the House of Representatives that attempted to force a vote on gun control legislation. When the Republicans ordered C-SPAN to turn off its normal coverage of the chamber, O'Rourke and Representative Scott Peters transmitted images by cell phone to social media for C-SPAN to broadcast.[84]

He supports universal background checks for gun purchases.[85] On March 7, 2018, O'Rourke told Alisyn Camerota of CNN: "We have a great tradition and culture of gun ownership and gun safety for hunting, for sport, for self-defense... I think that can allow Texas to take the lead on a really tough issue, which the country is waiting for leadership and action on."[86] He has called for a complete ban on assault rifles.[87]

Trump–Putin Summit

In July 2018, O'Rourke said that Trump's performance while attending the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki warranted impeachment.[88] Addressing the Trump–Putin joint press conference of July 16, he said standing "on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States—if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president".[89]


O'Rourke denounced the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem as "provocative". He supports a two-state solution and believes that the U.S. could best support a peaceful settlement by urging Israel to discontinue settlements in the West Bank and assist the Palestinian Authority to negotiate in good faith and recognize Israel's right to exist.[90]

Racial inequality

O'Rourke has spoken out against racial inequality. He supports the football players who have taken part in the "Take a knee" protests. Speaking in a video that went viral, O'Rourke said he believes there is "nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place."[91]


O'Rourke has signed the Pro-Truth Pledge.[92]

2016 endorsements

In 2016, when Nancy Pelosi faced a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, O'Rourke backed Ryan.[93] O'Rourke said that he believed in term limits, and therefore that it was time for new leadership.[93]

In June 2016, O'Rourke endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. As a sitting member of Congress, O'Rourke was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention.[94]

Personal life

O'Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders, the daughter of Louann and William Sanders of El Paso, on September 24, 2005, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The couple has three children.[10] Louann Sanders is the director of education development for the La Fe Community Development Corporation and executive director of the La Fe Preparatory charter school.[95]

In 2013, LegiStorm reported that O'Rourke may have violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which prohibits members of Congress from participating in the initial public offering (IPO) of company stocks. O'Rourke had purchased seven stocks, including stock in Twitter, at IPO prices, seeing a 39 percent increase on shares that he sold either the same day or within days of IPOs. After being contacted by LegiStorm, O'Rourke reported himself to the United States House Committee on Ethics.[96][97] The case was closed by the ethics committee after O'Rourke acknowledged that he may have violated the law and agreed to sell his remaining IPO shares and surrender his $7,136 in profit to the U.S. Treasury.[98][99]

  • O'Rourke, Beto and Byrd, Susie (2011). Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, Cinco Puntos Press ISBN 1933693940
  1. ^ In Texas, the position of county judge is a county's elected chief executive officer, not a judicial role.
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  3. ^ Robert Francis Orourke. Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 Familysearch.org
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  5. ^ Stanton, John (October 14, 2014). "Juarez's Biggest Booster Is An Irish-American Congressman". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  6. ^ Tilove, Jonathan (March 9, 2018). "`So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.' On the deeper purposes of the Cruz jingle". myStatesman. Austin American-Statesman. 
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  88. ^ Hagen, Lisa (July 18, 2018). "Russia raises problems for GOP candidates". The Hill. Retrieved July 19, 2018. 
  89. ^ Panetta, Grace (July 17, 2018). "A major Democratic Senate candidate just called for Trump's impeachment after his press conference with Putin". Business Insider. Retrieved July 18, 2018. 
  90. ^ "O'Rourke: U.S. Moving Embassy to Jerusalem Was 'Provocative,' Provided 'Incentives and Incitement to Violence'". June 25, 2018. Retrieved September 14, 2018. 
  91. ^ Johnson, Jenna. "Why so many people are coming to see Beto O'Rourke: A revolt against Trump and a demand for compassion". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2018. 
  92. ^ "Public Figures and Organizations That Signed the Pledge". Pro-Truth Pledge. Retrieved June 9, 2018. 
  93. ^ a b Svitek, Patrick (September 23, 2017). "O'Rourke praises Pelosi but doesn't want her help in Senate bid". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 16, 2018. 
  94. ^ Moore, Robert (June 10, 2016). "Rep. Beto O'Rourke endorses Hillary Clinton". El Paso Times. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  95. ^ "U.S. Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  96. ^ "Congressman may have broken ethics rules with Twitter stock purchase". The Denver Post. El Paso Times. November 26, 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2018. 
  97. ^ Phillips, Lauren (November 26, 2013). "El Paso congressman's IPO stake in Twitter questioned". Dallas News. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  98. ^ Horwitz, Jeff (May 7, 2015). "Millionaire Florida Congressman flipped shares in IPO despite US law". Business Insider. Associated Press. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  99. ^ "Congressman Disgorges IPO Stock Profits". November 29, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
External links
  • Representative Beto O'Rourke official U.S. House website
  • Beto O'Rourke for Senate
  • Beto O'Rourke at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Vote Smart
  • Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
  • Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
  • Beto leading "Bike-To-Work Week"
  • (subscription required)The Bloody Border, Time, April 23, 2009
  • Lights, Camera, Mayhem!, Melissa del Bosque Texas Observer, April 17, 2009
Civic offices Preceded by
Anthony Cobos Member of the El Paso City Council
from the 8th district

2005–2011 Succeeded by
Cortney Niland U.S. House of Representatives Preceded by
Silvestre Reyes Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th congressional district

2013–present Incumbent Party political offices Preceded by
Paul Sadler Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Texas
(Class 1)

2018 Most recent Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded by
Markwayne Mullin United States Representatives by seniority
283rd Succeeded by
Scott Perry
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Texas's current delegation to the United States CongressSenators
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  • WorldCat Identities
  • ISNI: 0000 0003 5619 3043
  • LCCN: n2011055842
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