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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Race for “the most amazing place”

Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

O’Rourke called for putting aside political divisions and coming together at the beginning of the town hall.

After nearly a year of campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke is continuing to visit with Texans at town halls in the state which he calls “the most amazing place on the planet.”
Wednesday evening, the congressman from El Paso held his third town hall in College Station at the Texas A&M University Student Recreation Center. O’Rourke spent an hour discussing the issues that are important to him, including healthcare and the environment. Once he closed his speech, students, local teachers and other members of the community voiced their concerns and asked the candidate questions on a variety of policies. O’Rourke said town halls help inform him about Texans’ priorities and make the campaign a team effort.
“If I can’t answer a question that was raised, I do everything in my power to make sure that we get someone an intelligent answer that is worthy of the thoughtful question that they have asked,” O’Rourke said. “I make sure that I think about the issues that were raised, the stories that people share with me, and I incorporate that into how I campaign. I tell those stories on the road as I go to the next town. I say, ‘Hey, I was in College Station last night and I learned some really amazing things and here they are.’ That becomes part of this state wide conversation that we’re having about the future of Texas and what our contributions are going to be to the future of this country.”
O’Rourke said he focuses on campaigning for policy issues, rather than against his opponent, because that is what the people of Texas want and deserve.
“Here’s what I hear people talking about,” O’Rourke said. “How do I make sure I can afford my education at A&M at a time of record student debt? There’s $1.4 trillion of outstanding student loan debt. How do I afford medication, get insured, see a therapist? How do I find a job that pays more than a living wage? These are the big important issues in the lives of the people that I want to represent. They are less concerned with the politicking and the campaigning, they are out right now for the moment to do something big for Texas and the country.”
The first question of the night was about O’Rourke’s stance on gun policy. As an original co-sponsor of H.R.5087, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, O’Rourke said there are many solutions that should be implemented to prevent overwhelming gun violence, including universal background checks.
“There are millions of gun sales taking place in this country every year, where we don’t have the opportunity to screen for people who could be a danger to themselves,” O’Rourke said. “There are tens of thousands of gun suicides every year. We don’t have a chance to screen for people who could be a danger of others in their lives. [In] those states that have universal background checks, you see a nearly 50 percent reduction in gun violence against an intimate partner. You see a near 50 percent reduction in gun violence against law enforcement. You save lives and you do nothing to in any way diminish anyone’s second amendment rights. I think that makes a lot of sense for Texas to lean on, given the fact that we have this great proud history of gun ownership and gun safety and fun responsibility.”
O’Rourke discussed his support for universal and accessible healthcare, saying healthy Texans ultimately contribute to a better state.
“Everyone has to be able to see that doctor, that provider, that nurse, that therapist,” O’Rourke said. “It’s going to be a far more efficient use of our resources and those who are better are going to do better. They’re going to do more. They’re going to be greater people than they otherwise would be, and the benefit accrues to all of us.”
Leadership as a state is important and possible, O’Rourke said. He said Texas has the ability to initiate change in the area of clean energy.
“We’re energy independent in a lot of ways,” O’Rourke said. “We lead the country in the generation of wind power. We will soon lead the country in the generation of solar power and today, there are more clean energy jobs in the state of Texas than there are carbon energy jobs in the state of Texas. They’re not mutually exclusive, it’s not one against the other. It just means that Texas has the opportunity to lead.”
O’Rourke said Texas should lead the way on other policy issues, especially immigration. He referenced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying the bill’s recipients have a lot to offer.
“I would love for Texas, the most diverse state in the Union, to lead the way on immigration,” O’Rourke said. “Not just to protect DREAMers from deportation, but to ensure that they stay here as citizens and contribute to their full potential.”
Andrea Flores, newly elected class of 2019 president and agricultural communications and journalism junior, said she originally attended the town hall with intentions of becoming informed and saw her own campaign message align with O’Rourke’s views.
“I just came out to gain more information about who is running for senator and just to be more informed,” Flores said. “I really liked how he touched on segregation and immigration, because my slogan [for class president] was ‘minorities are priorities.’ I like how he’s open to hearing everyone out.”
Sedrick Gilbert, a Bryan resident who attended previous town halls hosted by O’Rourke, closed the event by giving an impromptu speech to the crowd.
“What we need more of are leaders like [O’Rourke,] that choose to try and unite and not divide,” Gilbert said. “We should show support for them and try to reject those that try and divide us, to try and lead by fear. We should not fear each other. We are all human beings. Forget the labels.”
Hank Woji, a singer-songwriter from Terlingua, Texas, said he has met O’Rourke previously and supports the candidate’s approach to policy.
“I think he speaks to reason, in a sense that he’s got a very nonpartisan approach,” Woji said. “Yet, at the same time, he exemplifies progressive ideas in a very Texas kind of way. Down to earth, no nonsense, straight ahead, logical, Texas, but progressive. Make no mistake about it, he’s progressive. That’s great and that’s why I’m here.”
O’Rourke said the past year of campaigning has primarily taught him about the incredible people in Texas.
“There are so many good people here who want to do everything in their power to help Texas lead this country in the right direction, and it doesn’t matter if they’re republicans, democrats, independents — people are just wanting to do whatever they can to make sure they are here in this moment when our country needs us.” O’Rourke said. “It makes me incredibly proud of this state. I feel very lucky to be part of what is going on in Texas right now.”

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