AUSTIN (KXAN) — El Paso Democrat and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke officially announced his bid for President of the United States in the 2020 election in a video Thursday morning.
Sitting on a couch with his wife Amy, 46-year-old O’Rourke announced his campaign, “Beto for America.”
“Amy and I are happy to share with you that I am running to serve you as the next President of the United States of America,” he said. “This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.”
He went on to talk about what he called, “the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy, and our climate.”
O’Rourke announced his bid as he is set to begin a three-day speaking tour of battleground state Iowa Thursday. He will head to several counties in Iowa that flipped from supporting President Barack Obama in 2012 to supporting President Donald Trump in 2016.
“Over the coming days, I’m going to travel this country and listen to those who I seek to serve, to understand from your perspective how we can best meet these challenges,” he said.
He touched on immigration in the announcement video, reaffirming his stance on an issue that he has been vocal about against Trump.
“All of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem, it’s the best possible problem for this country to have,” he said. “We should ensure that there are lawful paths to work, to be with family and to flee persecution.”
Before his contentious battle for Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz in the November midterm elections, the Democratic Congressman was not well known outside of Texas. But he made waves on social media during the 2018 campaign and surprisingly came within three percentage points of upsetting Cruz in a historically red state. During his midterm campaign, he also shattered national fundraising records.
While he enters the presidential race a little later than some of the other Democrats in the field, several polls declared him among the favorites. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, O’Rourke was seen to have a good standing among Texas voters and could be a strong challenger for Trump. It also showed former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders could mount a serious challenge to turn Texas blue.
He joins other high profile Democrats like Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and fellow Texan and former mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, as part of an almost 20-candidate Democratic primary. Biden has still not announced whether he will run, though he, like O’Rourke, has been teasing his decision for months.
Castro announced his bid for president back in January. He spoke at South by Southwest in Austin over the weekend.
“I actually believe that the fact that we have 14 or 15 people is going to be great for the Democratic Party because all sides are going to get heard in these debates,” Castro said. “The person that emerges as the nominee is going to be stronger for it and better able to take on [President] Trump.”
At one of his stops in Iowa, O’Rourke was asked how he plans to keep his campaign “from becoming the zoo that was represented by the Republican Party” back in 2016 when there were 17 candidates.
“So many amazing candidates running for president right now – it’s a great sign that in some ways this democracy still works,” O’Rourke responded.
Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, issued a statement about having two Texans in the race.
“With two Texans running to represent us in the White House, we could not be more excited about the 2020 election,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “Our great state is the most important battleground state. It is critical that every candidate for president join Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke in campaigning in Texas.”
But the Republican National Committee pointed to O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign, where he narrowly lost to Sen. Cruz.
“It’s telling that the Democrats’ biggest start is someone whose biggest accomplishment is losing,” Michael Ahrens, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said. “Beto O’Rourke failed to get anything done in Congress and in extreme policies like government-run health care and tearing down border barriers, his 2020 bid won’t be successful either.”
O’Rourke will make several stops in eastern Iowa over the weekend and plans to be back in El Paso on March 30 for a kickoff rally for his campaign.