By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
A group of Robert “Beto” O’Rourke supporters gathered to celebrate the opening of their office headquarters for the grassroots campaign at 639 N. Valley Mills drive on Saturday morning. They learned about various opportunities to further the campaign through volunteer activities such as calling and texting shifts and block walks.
Local volunteer, Victoria Nelson, explained the purpose of having this designated office rather than just meeting in homes and garages that people offered as pop-up offices.
“The one on Valley Mills is more the central office. The main purpose is that’s what comes up on Google, not these people’s backyards. People can go there to get merchandise — because the pop-up offices won’t have merchandise — and to get signed up to be trained for a block walk or something,” Nelson said.
David Vaughn, a O’Rouke supporter who attended the opening, gave insight into why this headquarters is worthwhile to O’Rourke’s campaign.
“My perception of Waco is that it’s a fairly conservative area, and Beto started out with not a lot of support in this area — but it’s growing considerably,” Vaughn said.
A centralized location will help encourage voters to go out and vote, according to Nelson. Rixi Melton, a campaign employee, drove from Austin to facilitate the opening.
“[Melton] talked about the importance of filling all these texting and block-walking shifts,” Nelson said. “There are a lot of people in Texas who would vote for Beto but might not if they don’t get a reminder like, ‘Hey, are you going to come vote?’ I think they’ve already filled thousands of shifts, but there are thousands more that need to be filled.”
Both Vaughn and Nelson said the physical location will facilitate face-to-face interactions, which he believes is vital to O’Rourke’s campaign.
“I think campaigns accomplish more when they have face-to-face conversations, and that’s one person talking to another person about why they support a particular candidate,” Vaughn said. “I think that’s a lot more effective than any commercial or mass media campaign.”
According to an Ipsos, a global market research and a consulting firm, online poll released on Sept. 19, O’Rourke is ahead of Cruz by two points. This is the first time that the polls have shown him in the lead. However, the two candidates have been close for a while, and their support fluctuates.
“I know there’s a lot of support [for Beto] in Waco because I can never keep a sign in my yard for more than a day or two before someone asks if they can pick up one from me,” Nelson said.
According to both Vaughn and Nelson, O’Rourke’s support is not entirely composed of stereotypical or longtime Democrats. Nelson thinks a lot of people are becoming more liberal Republicans, Independent or simply becoming Democrats.
“They even have shirts ‘Republicans for Beto,’” Nelson said. “I’ve never seen that for another candidate that I can think of at the moment.”
Vaughn said he thinks O’Rourke appeals to a wider audience than the typical Democrat.
“I am a 70-year-old white male who grew up in the Deep South,” Vaughn said. “I was born in Texas. The time I spent out of Texas was in Georgia, so I wouldn’t consider myself to be what you would call the prime demographic for a Beto supporter.”
People support O’Rourke for a variety of reasons, but Vaughn shared what led him, a seemingly unlikely supporter, to decide to vote for O’Rourke.
“There were things about his campaign that I liked, such as the fact that he’s running a campaign that isn’t financed by [political action committees] or corporations,” Vaughn said. “I became convinced that he was the candidate that I want to support. I think there are a lot of Independents and Republicans — maybe not a lot of Republicans, but some — and there are quite a few people who aren’t regular voters who have become interested in this campaign because of the kind of campaign he’s running, which is all positive, not negative.”