Governor candidate Beto O’Rourke holds campaign rally in Waco

Beto O'Rourke holds a rally in Waco promising to winterize the Texas power grid, ensure equal pay among genders and legalize the use of marijuana if elected governor of Texas. Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

By Camille Cox | Staff Writer

Texas governor candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke held a rally for his candidacy at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Brazos Park East.

The former U.S. representative and U.S. senator candidate will appear on the Texas primary ballot in March, running to win the Democratic ticket in order to advance to the November general election against the Republican winner.

O’Rourke visited McLennan County on Tuesday, speaking to listeners about his plans if elected to office.

Throughout his speech, O’Rourke highlighted his plans if elected as governor, focusing on a six-part initiative in line with his 12-day campaign tour. O’Rourke highlighted Texas’ Winter Storm Uri, which left two out of every three Texans without power and killed over 200.

“If we win this and we can keep the lights on, then we can focus on those things that are important to all of us, that will connect with every single voter’s life,” O’Rourke said during the rally.

Waco City Council member Andrea Barfield introduced O’Rourke to the crowd, citing he is traveling throughout Texas to speak about his campaign “Keeping the Lights On.”

“I know for me personally, over one third of my residents in my district were without power — 40,000 residents in McLennan County were without power in the cold — and that is unacceptable,” Barfield said.

O’Rourke began the day campaigning in Tyler before traveling to Waco. The campaigning will end in Houston on Feb. 15, one day after early primary voting begins across the state.

“Keeping the Lights On is a 12-day, more than 2,100-mile statewide drive for a brighter Texas that will take Beto back to over 20 cities and towns,” O’Rourke’s website read.

Los Angeles senior Audrey Turman said she attended the rally with her friend to support O’Rourke’s campaign.

“I’m trying to change my voter registration so that we can hopefully turn Texas blue for some elections, but on top of that, I am really into the idea of Beto working harder to keep the infrastructure of Texas to the standard it should be in 2022, especially for people who are in lower socioeconomic classes,” Turman said.

Frisco sophomore Elise Willingham said she has been supporting O’Rourke since her sophomore year of high school and looked forward to finally being able to see him in person.

“Something that my parents have always taught me is standing up for what you believe in, and I think it’s really important to find candidates that don’t just fight for things because it’s right, but because they genuinely believe in it and want to better their communities,” Willingham said.

Texas district 56 representative candidate Erin Shank said she attended the rally in support of O’Rourke, as they both will be on the Democratic 2022 primary ballot.

“I think it’s time for change, and I love Beto’s spirit and all of his ideas and his enthusiasm, and I’m seeing the ballot, and I’m on there with him and it’s just so thrilling,” Shank said.

O’Rourke visited both Baylor and Waco during his senatorial campaign against Ted Cruz, bringing large crowds to both Mutualista Hall and Common Grounds during both visits.

“In 2017 and 2018, every time we came to Waco, we had a chance to do events with students at Baylor — some of the toughest questions I was asked, some of the most rewarding conversations and some of the most inspiring outcomes — because you saw young voter turnout, in part because of Baylor, go through the roof in 2018,” O’Rourke told the Lariat. “Young voters turned out at a rate 500% greater than the 2014 election, and that had a lot to do with the students of Baylor who didn’t buy into the cynicism and got after it and voted. We’re hoping to see the same thing this time.”

“I really loved how much he talked about the energy grid tonight,” Colorado Springs, Colo., sophomore Natalie Misleh said. “I think that’s so important, especially looking back on the storm that we just had and how there’s a possibility of that happening again to the strength that it happened last year, and I loved how he talked about that and how he’s really looking into the future.”

O’Rourke’s name will appear alongside four other Democratic governor candidates in the 2022 Texas primary election. The winner of the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket will then face off in the November general election.