Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso running against Republican Ted Cruz for a seat in the U.S. Senate in the November general election, made a stop in Brownwood Saturday afternoon for a town hall conversation on the patio behind the Turtle restaurant.
The 45-year-old O’Rourke, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 16th congressional district in his native El Paso, aims to visit all of 254 counties in the state prior to the election. O’Rourke rescheduled his original Brownwood appearance date of Jan. 21, which was cancelled due to returning to Washington following the first government shutdown of 2018.
Regarding his tour of Texas, O’Rourke said, “We’re finding all these great people that want to do what is so critical and important for our country at perhaps it’s most important hour of need, going all the way back maybe to 1860.
“There could not be a clearer choice between the two paths we can take. If you’re on the path where you didn’t stand and applaud the president’s speech during the State of the Union, you’re a traitor to the homeland, and we know where that path will take you. We saw that play out in the 20th century. If you’re on a path, however, that wants to replace walls with immigration laws that make the most of all of us … laws written in our own image, we are the defining immigrant border state, we are the connection to the rest of the world and that’s a pride worth celebrating and capitalizing on and bringing the rest of the country around to our perspective.”
During Saturday’s stop, O’Rourke fielded a question regarding the hot topic of gun control following the school shooting in Florida this past week that resulted in 17 deaths.
“There’s going to be differences of opinion among us on what we should do about gun safety,” he said. “Reasonable people can disagree and come to different conclusions and I want to respect that. What blows my mind is we can’t even have the discussion in this country. I’ve been in Congress five years, there have been zero debates on gun safety. The Center for Disease Control, the same kind of agency that helped us to understand that tobacco will give you lung cancer and eventually kill you so you shouldn’t smoke, is prohibited by U.S. law to study gun violence. More than 50,000 of our fellow Americans are dying from gun suicide or being killed by a gun every single year.
“I will admit I don’t have all the answers, it won’t be easy and there is no quick way to resolve this, but at the minimum we should be having a debate, a discussion.”
O’Rourke also shared his views on the following topics during the Q&A session:
“We want to keep kids away from something that’s not good for your brain when it’s still developing. The science on that is pretty clear. Yet marijuana is just as available in a high school today as it was in 1972. And it’s more available in middle schools. I’m the father of an 11-year-old, and for that reason if we make it legal I’m going to make sure we regulate and control its sale.
“I joined a bill as a co-sponsor that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana that was written by a Republican from Virginia. We know tobacco kills hundreds of thousands of Americans. We also know we didn’t outlaw tobacco, we regulated it, controlled its sale and treated it as a public health issue, specifically tailoring messages to kids. In the same 45 years we spent a trillion dollars trying to outlaw marijuana and it’s just as available, tobacco use among kids has gone through the floor. Fewer kids are picking up the habit, fewer people are dying from it. I think there’s something to be learned in that.”
“We want to make sure that everyone is able to see a doctor, provider or therapist and afford the medication that could literally save their lives. Texas is the least insured state in the United States of America which means when our fellow Texans, who are not as lucky as many of us are to have insurance, need help they’re still going to get it but they’re going to wait until they are really sick, really desperate and really suffering.
“We can be the state that leads the way in insuring everyone will get the health care that they need to be successful.”
“I would love for Texas to lead the way on public education reform and put the power back in the hands of teachers to do what they were called to do. They have resources to be able to answer that call. They’re too many small towns in Texas where teachers are literally the economic and intellectual life form for those communities.
“We could be the state that gets behind our retired school teachers and makes sure TRS pays a cost of living adjustment. It’s been more than 10 years since those brave public servants who dedicated their lives to the generations that have followed them, have been able to expect something that keeps pace with inflation.”
“There is concern the droughts we’re having in Texas will not be caused by man-made climate change, but they will be intensified by man-made climate change. They will be more frequent as we continue to cook this planet. And if we raise the temperature an additional 2 degrees Celsius, we lose it for the generations that follow us. We will not have to worry about more storms like Harvey in Houston because there will not be a Houston for Harvey to hit. This is our chance in this generation to get this right.”