Beto O'Rourke Strived to "Listen" While Visiting Denton on the Campaign Trail

Hundreds of people showed for a Beto O'Rourke townhall at the Gateway Center at the University of North Texas on Friday, April 20. The entire room for the event was filled to the brim as there was an overflow room listening into the conversation next door.

A current U.S. Representative for Texas' 16th Congressional District in El Paso, O'Rourke, a Democrat, is currently running for U.S. Senator against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. He has been on the campaign trail tirelessly to win a seat which seemed like a long-shot a year ago when he announced his run. But since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, Democrats have been hopeful for a "Blue Wave" to shift a change in the direction of the country and O'Rourke's campaign has currently outraised Cruz' and is only a small margin behind Cruz in the race. 

At the townhall right before noon, O'Rourke wished everyone a "good morning," and "buenos dias," a running theme of his where he translates phrases and vocabulary to Spanish drawing on his background of living and representing in El Paso, a Hispanic majority city.

He began his townhall with a hopeful speech calling Texas "the most diverse state" which should lead by example in the future direction of politics straying from Trump's values. 

"The future, our state, this country, is depending on every single one of us," O'Rourke said. "And each one of us must commit oursleves to the work ahead."

Although he could be the first Democrat to win the Senatorial race since Bob Krueger in 1993 and would be first Democrat to win an election since Lloyd Bentson in 1988, O'Rourke says he doesn't want to see it in terms of doing this for Democrats or for him specifically but for the country's sake. 

Texas is the least insured state in the country and more than 4 billion do not have insurance. He says Texas could lead the country on this issue of healthcare because "no people understand the consequence of not having healthcare like Texas." He said it is necessary that we listen and hear everyone and be willing to work with the other side, something he reiterates and emphasizes as he gives examples of moments this worked within his time as a politician. On healthcare, he said given the opportunity, we do the right thing and come together alluding to natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey in August. 

"It has nothing to do with party; it has everything to do with giving one another, our fellow Texans the opportunity to do right by and for one another," O'Rourke said.

O'Rourke says listening is the path to improving the country which he strived to exemplify by dedicating the rest of his time to taking questions from the audience and providing long-winded answers.

Journalism major Nohely Galindo, asked O'Rourke about President Barrack Obama's immigration policy on the southern border which ended up deporting more immigrants than any president. She asked O'Rourke he planned to do about this moving forward especially for those who are running from violence who get deported when trying to seek asylum.

O'Rourke, although saying Obama was the greatest president of his lifetime, he acknowledged that Obama's policy did separate more families and deported many innocent people and told the room it was important for them to take that in, saying it didn't start with President Trump. He said the intent was noble, but he said the U.S., the wealthiest, most powerful country, has to do a better job of accepting those who have no place to go.

Galindo said she believes O'Rourke will do something if given the chance, but said his answer wasn't very concrete and any solution will probably take multiple times to get right.

"Although his answer sounds hopeful, it sounded like false hope," Galindo said. "I think he will do something but not in the short-term."

Senior Media Arts Major Samira Tariq asked O'Rourke two questions. One question was about the Pink Tax, a "luxury tax" placed on women's hygiene products, specifically on menstrual items, the other question about conservative anti-choice places masquerading as legitimate pro-choice women’s clinics in which some happen to be federally funded. She asked for what he proposed to do about both of these issues. He admitted to not knowing about the Pink Tax but said he was ready to learn.

"This is why we have these meetings and this is why I'm glad you're here," O'Rourke said. "I want to follow your lead and I want you to guide me and make sure we have the right response for this."

He asked if people could let him know of any legislation he could join or other things he could do to help these issues. Then, talked about explaining to his mother, who he claims is pro-life, about the mortality rate of mothers and the numbers of teen pregnancy and how they can push to allow spaces where you can learn about sex, sexuality and life in a better way than we are used to. 

"I was glad that Mr. O’Rourke showed interest in issues that he admitted to not knowing
about as far as the premium taxing of women’s hygiene products," Tariq said. "On the other hand, he didn’t give a clear answer about anti-choice clinics. I wasn’t sure if he misunderstood the question or avoiding answering it." 

Tariq said she may have not worded the question correctly but was able to get the contact of his event manager to talk to him at a different time about the issues so she may guide him.

Header image by Mateo Granados