Beto O'Rourke - Biography

Robert Francis 'Beto' O'Rourke is an American politician who served in the United States House of Representatives representing Texas's 16th congressional district from 2013 to 2019. O'Rourke is most known for his unsuccessful Senate race in 2018, which he lost to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. He ran for the Democratic candidacy for President of the United States in 2020.

O'Rourke was born into a political family in El Paso, Texas, and attended Woodberry Forest School before attending Columbia University.

He returned to El Paso after graduating from college and started a business career. He was elected to the El Paso City Council in 2005 and served until 2011. O'Rourke was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2012, beating eight-term Democratic incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the primaries.

O'Rourke declined to run for re-election to the House in 2018 after being re-elected in 2014 and 2016. Instead, he ran a competitive campaign for Ted Cruz's U.S. Senate seat, attracting national attention. O'Rourke established a record for the most votes cast for a Democrat in a Texas midterm election. On March 14, 2019, O'Rourke declared his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2020 presidential election. He called his quits on his candidacy on November 1, 2019, before the primaries started, and subsequently supported Joe Biden.


Pat Francis O'Rourke and Melissa Martha O'Rourke  gave birth to O'Rourke on September 26, 1972, at Hotel Dieu Hospital in El Paso, Texas. He is a fourth-generation Irish American, with maternal grandparents who arrived in the American colonies in the 18th century.

His parents and paternal grandparents were born in El Paso, whereas his maternal grandfather was born in Metter, Georgia, and his maternal grandmother in Racine, Wisconsin. He has two younger sisters, one of whom was born with intellectual disabilities.

His family gave him the moniker 'Beto' in his childhood, a typical Spanish-Portuguese nickname for first names ending in '-berto,' to differentiate him from his namesake grandpa.

O'Rourke was exposed to punk music in eighth grade when he heard the Clash's London Calling (1979), an album he subsequently described as 'a revelation.'

He began attending local punk concerts when he was 14 or 15 years old. He quickly found Dischord Records, a punk music-focused indie label headquartered in Washington, D.C., and started reading punk zines such as Maximumrocknroll and Flipside. As a teenager in the 1980s, O'Rourke felt estranged from the city of El Paso. He told The Texas Observer that in his childhood El Paso, 'There was nothing to worry about. There was no power. There was no danger.'

O'Rourke was a member of the computer hacking organisation Cult of the Dead Cow as a youngster, named after a closed-down slaughterhouse in Lubbock. 'The organisation is known for publishing tools that enabled regular individuals to attack machines running Microsoft's Windows,' according to the report.

On July 3, 2001, O'Rourke's father, a longtime cycling enthusiast, was killed while riding his bicycle along the shoulder of Pete Domenici Highway, just outside El Paso's city limits and across the New Mexico state line, when he was struck from behind by a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am, throwing him 70 feet (21 m) and causing severe head injuries; he was pronounced dead at the scene. During the burial ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral in El Paso, O'Rourke gave the eulogy.

On September 24, 2005, O'Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders, the daughter of Louann and Bill Sanders, at her parents' ranch in Lamy, New Mexico, near Santa Fe.

The couple and their three children reside in El Paso's Sunset Heights in the mission-style home built by Henry Trost, where General Hugh Scott and Pancho Villa allegedly met in 1915.

O'Rourke has been a Roman Catholic his whole life, although he has openly stated his disagreement with Church teaching, notably the Church's reluctance to recognise same-sex marriages.

O'Rourke with his family

"O'Rourke's schooling started at Escuela Montessori Del Valle preschool and proceeded at Rivera and Mesita Elementary Schools.", "He enrolled at Woodberry Forest School, an all-male residential school in Madison County, Virginia, in 1988, following two years at El Paso High School.", "He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature in 1995. He is fluent in Spanish.",


During his undergraduate years, O'Rourke dabbled with music. After leaving El Paso to attend Columbia University in New York, he formed his first band, Swipe. Swipe performed in New York pubs and clubs, and even opened for the Olympia, Washington-based punk band Fitz of Depression.

O'Rourke became a punk music enthusiast after hearing Bad Brains as a youngster. Mike Stevens and Arlo Klahr, two El Paso pals, and O'Rourke learned to play musical instruments; O'Rourke chose the bass.

O'Rourke and Klahr, according to Bixler-Zavala, introduced him to a zine called Book Your Own Fucking Life, which is a tutorial on how to book your own concerts without an agency.

Some of O'Rourke's subsequent political choices were influenced by the DIY mentality he initially experienced in the punk movement, such as his Senate campaign's vow not to take financial donations from PACs (political action committees).

O'Rourke while playing music

After graduating, O'Rourke worked as a live-in caregiver and art mover before joining his uncle's Internet service company. He subsequently worked as a proofreader for H. W. Wilson Company and authored short tales and songs in his spare time.

In 1998, O'Rourke returned to El Paso.

Initially, he worked as an inventory tracker at his mother's luxury furniture shop and lived in an apartment building owned by his father.

O'Rourke said that he intended to combat 'brain-drain,' or the departure of young people due to a lack of opportunities.

He co-founded Stanton Street Technology Group, an Internet services and software firm, in 2000.

O'Rourke was active in El Paso civic and charitable organisations such as the Rotary Club, United Way, and the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. He served on the boards of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the University of Texas at El Paso's Institute for Policy and Economic Development.

O'Rourke while giving a speech.
El Paso City Council

O'Rourke campaigned for El Paso City Council in mid-2005 on a platform of downtown revitalization and border reform.

O'Rourke beat two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent.

Byrd and Ortega were also elected, and along with O'Rourke, they became known as 'The Progressives.' O'Rourke is one of the City Council's youngest representatives. He was re-elected to a second term in 2007, beating Trini Acevedo 70 percent to 30 percent.

O'Rourke was unanimously elected mayor pro tem at his first city council meeting on June 14, 2005. When the mayor is absent, the mayor pro tem represents the city at meetings and ceremonial events, presides over City Council in the mayor's absence, assigns council members to legislative review committees, and generally works in collaboration with the mayor in a leadership role. On June 20, 2006, he resigned from his post, stating, 'I agreed to accept it on the premise that someone else do it in a year... I hope it becomes a new practise to pick a new mayor pro tem every year.'

He backed a revitalization proposal for a low-income section of El Paso's commercial centre with a high vacancy rate, which was also backed by Mayor John Cook and fellow City Councilwoman Susie Byrd.

O'Rourke introduced a resolution in January 2009 asking for a 'full review' of the War on Drugs and the removal of 'ineffective marijuana prohibitions.' Mayor John Cook rejected the motion, which was overwhelmingly backed by his colleagues on the El Paso City Council.

O'Rourke told reporters that the hundreds of victims murdered in the neighbouring city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, prompted him to speak out against the War on Drugs. 'I hope that all had the intended effect of igniting a national debate about the wisdom of the War on Drugs...and, perhaps more significantly, of helping to bring about a better solution than the current system, which has led to the horror and misery in Juarez,' he added.

O'Rourke at El Paso City
U.S House Of Representatives 2012

In 2012, O'Rourke ran for the Democratic primary to replace eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes in Texas' 16th congressional district. In the strongly Democratic, Latino-majority district, the primary was seen as the genuine fight.

Byrd was in charge of O'Rourke's field operations, while Escobar was in charge of communication. O'Rourke received 50.5 percent of the vote, only a few hundred votes over than the necessary threshold to avoid a runoff against Reyes.

In contrast to Reyes, he supported LGBT rights and drug legalisation. His campaign was mostly conducted on foot, and he is said to have knocked on 16,000 houses. In the general election, he beat his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, with 65 percent of the vote. Because of O'Rourke's lack of Hispanic ancestry, the district was no longer represented in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 26-member organisation founded in 1976.

David Austin, the border representative for the United States/Mexico Border Counties Coalition headquartered in El Paso, claimed that he should be allowed to participate. O'Rourke, for his part, said that he adhered to the caucus' rules.

Every month, as a Congressman, he conducted at least one town hall meeting. In March 2013, O'Rourke and Republican Steve Pearce of New Mexico introduced the Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act, which proposed establishing an ombudsman within the Department of Homeland Security to investigate allegations of violence and civil-rights violations by US Customs and Border Protection, as well as establishing a commission to oversee US Customs and Border Protection.

O'Rourke while addressing people

During his re-election campaign in the autumn of 2014, O'Rourke contributed at least $28,000 from his personal campaign money to Democratic House candidates. O'Rourke was re-elected with 67 percent of the vote in 2014.

O'Rourke was one of six members of Congress that travelled to Israel for a six-day tour that included talks with Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators, political leaders, and citizens. O'Rourke's earlier votes against US financing for Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system and his refusal to attend Israel's prime minister's speech to Congress were contentious; the measure was easily approved in the House, with a 395–8 majority. While he was not opposed to financing the project, he was hesitant to support giving $225 million to Israel without any debate or discussion, claiming that the US's policy of 'unequivocal support at times has been detrimental to Israel.'

O'Rourke supported Hillary Clinton for President in June 2016, becoming one of the last Democratic congressman to do so during the primary season. O'Rourke was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention as a serving member of Congress.

O'Rourke declared his candidacy for a third term in 2016 in October 2015. He won the Democratic primary and went on to beat the Green and Libertarian parties in the general election. When Nancy Pelosi faced a leadership challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, O'Rourke supported Ryan. O'Rourke said that he believed in term limits and that it was thus time for fresh leadership.

In 2017, the congressman co-sponsored the American Families United Act alongside Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Eric Swalwell of California, which advocated the notion that US residents had the right to sponsor their spouses for legal immigration.

O'Rourke while giving a speech
U.S Senate Campaign 2018

Political analysts saw O'Rourke as a 'longshot' contender when he was contemplating running for the Texas Senate seat in 2018. According to Ben Terris of The Washington Post, he is suffering from a 'virus' that is creating 'mass illusions that the traditional norms of politics no longer apply.' He inquired 'Can a Democrat win in this strongly conservative state, especially against Cruz, who will run one of the best-financed campaigns in the country? And can he do it while sending a good message about Mexicans in an era when labelling them rapists helped a guy become president?'

O'Rourke's campaign garnered widespread national notice for its ability to gather huge audiences and heavy use of social media. He conducted his campaign without the help of professional pollsters or strategists, instead relying on volunteers with no prior experience conducting a political campaign. His campaign made use of bulk SMS messaging. According to the FEC's 2018 third-quarter report, his campaign spent US$7.3 million on digital advertising alone (compared to Cruz's $251,000). His first advertisement was shot using an iPhone.

O'Rourke used social media on a daily basis, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and livestreamed his activities while touring the state, such as skating in a Whataburger parking lot, washing clothes at a laundromat, and 'blockwalking' in his voters' neighbourhoods. He urged fans to share photos they had taken with him on social media. Some of his videos became viral, including his stance on NFL players 'taking a knee' and police violence against unarmed black males. Supporters claimed O'Rourke's 'promise of compassion' attracted their vote more than any particular policy stance.


O'Rourke has said that he would not take PAC donations for his Senate race. Within the first three months, he collected $2 million, the most of which came from modest contributions.

PolitiFact graded his claim about not accepting PAC money as 'true' throughout the campaign. In June 2017, he got his first significant organisational support from End Citizens United, which discovered that he had raised three times as much money as Cruz without taking corporate special interest money. He raised $10.4 million in the second quarter of 2018, compared to Cruz's $4.6 million, with each contender having raised $23 million by September 1.

O'Rourke raised $80 million for his campaign, the most ever raised by a U.S. Senate candidate.


The Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram all supported O'Rourke's Senate campaign. Willie Nelson, the singer and activist, supported O'Rourke and attended a rally for him on September 29 in Austin, Texas, saying, 'Beto represents what is unique about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is absolutely real.'

Nelson performed his new election-themed song 'Vote 'Em Out' at the rally's conclusion. Beyoncé, Khalid, Aaron Jones, Eva Longoria, LeBron James, Jim Carrey, Travis Scott, Ellen DeGeneres, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Kelly Rowland were among the other celebrities that endorsed the product.


Cruz beat O'Rourke by a margin of 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent on November 6, 2018. Despite his defeat, O'Rourke claimed credit for the victory of many Democratic Party down-ticket candidates, dubbed the 'Beto Effect' by some.

Republicans, for example, lost control of the Texas Third and Fifth Courts of Appeals in the 2018 elections.

O'Rourke got more over four million votes, compared to Hillary Clinton, who received just 3.9 million votes in Texas during the 2016 presidential election, and David Alameel, the Democratic candidate in the 2014 Texas Senate race, who received only 1.6 million votes. O'Rourke established a Texas record for the most votes cast for a Democrat in a single election.

O'Rourke with meeting with people
Presidential Campaign 2020

In late 2018, rumours started that O'Rourke could run for President of the United States in 2020. Prior to the midterm elections, The New Republic said that O'Rourke's Senate campaign was the start of a presidential campaign, while labelling it 'journalistic hedging,' or an excuse for the media to follow a candidate who was anticipated to lose.

He has 'brand recognition, a broadly effective fundraising operation, a youthful fresh face with a sprinkle of woke, a cool demeanour, a new viewpoint, he speaks Spanish, and would be an exciting and cheerful candidate,' according to Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

El Paso TV station KTSM-TV announced on March 13 that O'Rourke has chosen to run for President in 2020. The next day, O'Rourke confirmed rumours by declaring his entry into the presidential campaign.

On November 1, 2019, O'Rourke declared the termination of his presidential campaign.

On March 2, 2020, one day before Super Tuesday, he supported Joe Biden during a rally in Dallas, Texas.

O'Rourke with Joe Biden
Key Positions

O'Rourke supports cannabis legalisation. In 2011, O'Rourke co-wrote a book, Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the United States and Mexico, in which he advocates for the legalisation of marijuana in order to decrease drug-related violence and weaken the financing of Mexican drug gangs.

O'Rourke supports boosting federal funding for public schools in low-income areas. He thinks that teachers and local education authorities should be given greater leeway in establishing classroom standards, with less focus on 'arbitrary, high-stakes exams.'

O'Rourke is an advocate for measures to fight global warming. He has pushed for a carbon tax and wants to significantly expand the usage of renewable energy. He has been an outspoken opponent of the Trump Administration's decision to repeal greenhouse gas restrictions and reduce funding for environmental initiatives.

During the 2014 Israel–Gaza war, O'Rourke condemned Israel's conduct and voted against financing Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system.

O'Rourke called the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem 'provocative.' He favours a two-state solution and thinks that the United States can best help a peaceful resolution by encouraging Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and assisting the Palestinian Authority in negotiating in good faith and recognising Israel's right to exist.

On the evening of June 22, 2016, O'Rourke took part in a House of Representatives sit-in to demand a vote on gun control legislation. When Republicans ordered C-SPAN to cut off its regular coverage of the chamber, O'Rourke and Representative Scott Peters used their mobile phones to send pictures to social media, which C-SPAN broadcasted.

'We have a wonderful history and culture of gun ownership and gun safety for hunting, for recreation, for self-defense... I believe that can enable Texas to take the lead on a very difficult subject, which the nation is waiting for leadership and action on,' O'Rourke told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on March 7, 2018.

He believes that all firearm purchases should be subject to universal background checks.

O'Rourke is a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.

As early as 2012, he claimed that his border experience had given him 'a deep knowledge of immigration's effect on our society,' referring to El Paso as 'an Ellis Island to Latin America for more than 150 years,' and speaking out against'militarizing' the border. O'Rourke spoke out against Trump's decision to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided temporary residency to certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. Protecting DREAMers is a 'high priority,' according to O'Rourke. In October 2016, he delivered a TEDx presentation titled The Border Makes America Great about his immigration views.

During his presidential campaign in October 2019, O'Rourke suggested stripping religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage of their tax-exempt status. O'Rourke said during CNN's Equality Town Hall, ''there can be no incentive, no advantage, no tax break for anybody or any institution, for group in America that rejects the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.'

O'Rourke voted against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which would have permanently prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions and would have reformed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to prohibit qualified health plans from including abortion coverage.

Since his election in 2013, O'Rourke has hosted monthly veterans town hall sessions.

After hearing about lengthy wait times, particularly for mental health services, he conducted his own local poll of veterans, which revealed wait times considerably beyond what the VA was reporting. O'Rourke and colleagues worked to create a new programme at the El Paso VA intended to treat for military-related health problems inside the hospital while utilising community clinics or medical institutions in the region for more conventional medical requirements in an effort to better fulfil veterans' needs.