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Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (/ˈbɛt/; born September 26, 1972) is an American politician and businessman serving as the U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district in his native El Paso, first elected in 2012. He is the Democratic nominee in the 2018 Texas Senate race, challenging Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Silvestre Reyes
Member of the El Paso City Council
from the 8th district
In office
June 1, 2005 – June 27, 2011
Preceded by Anthony Cobos
Succeeded by Cortney Niland
Personal details
Born Robert Francis O'Rourke
(1972-09-26) September 26, 1972 (age 45)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Amy Hoover Sanders (m. 2005)
Children 3
Education Columbia University (BA)

House website

Campaign website

O'Rourke won the general election held in November 2012, defeating incumbent U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary earlier 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. On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 election.


Early life, education, and music careerEdit

O'Rourke is a fourth-generation Irish American,[1] born in El Paso, the son of Melissa Martha (Williams) and El Paso County Judge 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 in 1995 on burglary charges, and in 1998 on drunken driving charges, but acquitted in both cases.[13][14]

Business career (1995–2005)Edit

Following college, O'Rourke worked at Internet service providers in New York City[15] before his return to El Paso in 1998. The following year, he co-founded Stanton Street Technology, an internet services and software company that develops websites and software.[15][16] His wife, Amy, operates the business as of March 2017.[17]

El Paso City Council (2005–2011)Edit

In mid-2005, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council, and defeated two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos, 57%–43%.[18][19] O'Rourke is one of the youngest representatives to have ever served on the City Council.[20] In 2007, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Trini Acevedo, 70%–30%.[21][22]

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".[23] 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.[23][24][25] 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.[26] "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.[27]

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



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.[28] He was contrasted with Reyes in his support for LGBT rights[29] and drug liberalization.[30] He defeated his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, in the general election with 65 percent of the vote.[31]


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.[32]


In October 2015, O'Rourke announced his bid for a third term in 2016.[33] He won the Democratic primary and defeated his Green and Libertarian opponents in the general election.[34]

Committee assignmentsEdit

Caucus memberships

2018 Senate campaignEdit

On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Party member Ted Cruz.[37] 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.[38][39]

In March 2018, O'Rourke became the Democratic Party nominee, winning 61.8% of the primary vote.[40] He received his first major organizational endorsement from End Citizens United in June 2017,[41] which found that he had raised triple the funds of Cruz without accepting corporate special interest money.[42]

Political viewsEdit

Beto O'Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition which is described as moderate or centrist.[43] O'Rourke is sometimes considered to be a progressive or liberal Democrat.[44][45] The non-partisan National Journal gave O'Rourke a composite ideology of 85% liberal and 15% conservative in 2013.[46] 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 broke with his party on issues like free trade.[47] 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.[48] According to Five ThirtyEight, 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.[49]

Drug policyEdit

O'Rourke favors the legalization of cannabis on grounds that the war against narcotics cannot be won.[23] 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.[50] O’Rourke has tweeted his opposition to the War on Drugs.[51]


O'Rourke has a lifetime score of 100% from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and a rating of 100% from NARAL Pro-Choice America.[52][53] 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.[54][non-primary source needed]

LGBT rightsEdit

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.[55] He was a co-sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 3135).[56]


O'Rourke favors comprehensive immigration reform.[57] 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.[58][59] O'Rourke said it is a "top priority" to protect DREAMers.[58] He has criticized President Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration, saying that Trump is "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][60]

Ted Cruz asserted in 2018 that O'Rourke wanted "open borders and wants to take our guns."[61] 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."[61] He has called for a complete ban on assault rifles.[62]

O'Rourke asserted in 2018 that "precisely zero terrorists, terrorist groups or terror plots have ever been connected with the U.S.-Mexico border to do harm to people within the United States." PolitiFact found that O'Rourke's claim was "false"; noting that O'Rourke's claim was consistent with the State Department's declarations (the department found no credible information on terrorists operating on the border) and that experts believed instances of terrorists operating on the border to be extremely rare, but that "zero means nothing--and it's not so that there have been absolutely no cases of terrorists or terrorist plots tied to the border."[63]

Beto O'Rourke recently led protests in Tornillo, Texas, a city located right outside of the congressional district that he represents, protesting against 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 city is now home to a "tent-city" where separated children are being held without their parents. O'Rourke called this "Un-American" and is the responsibility of all Americans.[64][65]

Health careEdit

O'Rourke has expressed support for single-payer legislation to achieve universal health coverage,[66] but has released a statement saying he's critical of Bernie Sanders' Medicare For All bill (HR 676) for not allocating funds towards for-profit healthcare providers.[67] He supports stabilization of the insurance markets to improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He also supports the expansion of Medicaid[68][69] and is a co-sponsor of the Medicare-X Choice Act of 2017.[70]

Gun policyEdit

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.[71]

He supports universal background checks for gun purchases.[72] On March 7, 2018, O'Rourke told Alisyn Camerota of CNN that "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."[73] He has called for a complete ban on assault rifles.[74]

Trump-Putin SummitEdit

In July 2018, O'Rourke said that Trump's performance while attending the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki warranted impeachment.[75] Addressing the Trump-Putin joint press conference of July 16, he stated that 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".[76]


O'Rourke has signed the Pro-Truth Pledge [77]

2016 endorsementsEdit

In 2016, when Nancy Pelosi faced a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, O'Rourke backed Ryan.[78] O'Rourke said that he believed in term limits, and therefore that it was time for new leadership.[78]

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.[79]

Personal lifeEdit

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 have three children.[10] Sanders is the director of education development for the La Fe Community Development Corporation and executive director of the La Fe Preparatory charter school.[80]

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.[81][82] 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.[83][84]


  • 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


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External linksEdit