To kick off his campaign, Beto O’Rourke is making a swing through southeast Iowa today.
Local 4 News caught up with him in Burlington at Beancounter. It got packed as voters and media awaited his arrival — at one point they had to ask some people to leave because they exceeded the 120 capacity.
DeBeto O’Rourke, a Democrat running for the 2020 presidential nomination said in a video posted Thursday, “I’m running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America.”
The Texas-native gained national attention during last year’s Midterm senate race in Texas challenging Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
That’s what many voters told Local 4 News put the candidate on their radar.
Part of his campaign swing took him through Burlington.
He spoke and answered questions for crowds gathering at a coffee shop and local electrician union.
O’Rourke covered a wide range of issues: expanding healthcare access, veterans care, education including universal pre-K and funding for higher ed and immigration.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a greater moment in our lifetime and for this country,” said O’Rourke. “The challenges have never been greater, more severe, more critical more defining for the future.”
A recent poll of voters ranked the former Congressman as fifth among caucus-goers.
The newest contender also promoted what he calls a grassroots effort.
O’Rourke said, “This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us. That seeks to unite a very divided country.”
In January, O’Rourke finished his third term as a Texas Congressman.
The Democratic candidate also said instead of comparing himself to the other in the race; he’s going to focus on what he’s done.
O’Rourke said, “Small business owner, started a high-wage, high skill business in El Paso. Employed my fellow El Pasoans that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to find. Worked in city council, served in Congress.”
Local 4 News also spoke with several voters before and after O’Rourke talked to the crowds.
They tell us right now they’re keeping their options open and said O’Rourke is among the top two, or three candidates they’re considering.
They’re waiting to solidify their decision until they hear more of what O’Rourke plans for the country and what other candidates have to say.
Voters also tell Local 4 they think O’Rourke is someone the country needs and has the qualities to make him a good candidate.
Shea McCuen of Burlington said, “I think it’s his charisma. I think people are really missing that. We have a president right now who just kind of lacks that charisma. I think a lot of people miss that Obama days.”
Dawn Hecox who drove from Fort Madison said, “Has a lot of good morals, that knows the working man, that’s for the working people that want to share things and not have 400 people in the world have all the wealth.”
One of the voters who spoke with Local 4 is a college student at Western Illinois University who used to live in O’Rourke’s Texas district and followed his senate campaign last year.
He said what he likes is O’Rourke is easy to connect with.
College student Devon Greene said, “Think he’s really personable. He’s focusing on the issues that I really care about. Climate change, he spoke about that a lot. He spoke about funding for higher education and mental health. Things that are important to me and I think they’re important to a lot of people.
One thing voters also told Local 4 News was they think O’Rourke if he doesn’t clinch the party’s nomination, would be a good addition on the ticket as a vice presidential choice.
O’Rourke will be in Iowa the next few days, which included a stop in Muscatine Thursday night.
The Republican Party is also responding to O’Rourke’s announcement to run.
In a statement, the Communication Director says: “O’Rourke failed to get anything done in Congress, and with extreme policies like government-run health case and tearing down border barriers, his 2020 bid won’t be successful either.”
Some people are being asked to leave because they’ve exceeded the 120 capacity. @BetoORourke holding a second event this afternoon at IBEW Union 13 office in Burlington. @Local4NewsWHBF— Shawn Loging (@ShawnLoging) March 14, 2019
Check that. The newly announced #2020Election. Presidential candidate @BetoORourke expected in less than 15. @Local4NewsWHBF #YLEH pic.twitter.com/VOidO6Zlnn— Shawn Loging (@ShawnLoging) March 14, 2019