O’Rourke visits Penn State on nationwide campaign tour

STATE COLLEGE — A large group of mostly young faces crowded around a stage Tuesday where Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke spoke at Penn State University’s main campus, calling for unity of the nation as part of his campaign platform.

“It’s always been the way in which I served, from city council to Congress,” O’Rourke said of creating unity, commenting on how he was the minority and would find Republican colleagues to get things done. “And I learned a heck of a lot by following the wisdom and leadership of others about the things most important to them and to their communities.”

He briefly touched upon a wide range of issues, including immigration reform to “free Dreamers from fear” and to allow them to contribute to society, the socioeconomic disparities and the need for economic democracy, the use of renewable energy sources, the legalization of marijuana to diminish the influence of drug cartels and acknowledging the truths of modern-day racism and discrimination.

The visit to the college campus followed his campaign announcement Thursday.

He said he decided to run for president due to his responsibility to his family and to others.

“With my family, we made this decision that if this is going to be the defining moment of truth for this country, for the people who will inherit the consequences of our action or inaction, I’m accountable for my kids, to the future generations of this country,” said O’Rourke, who is married to Amy Sanders and has three children. “And I will know that I have done everything in my power to make it a better future.”

Prior to the former Texas representative’s arrival, crowd members called out for O’Rourke in unison, awaiting his appearance.

One attendee held up a City of El Paso flag to show his support.

Three female students close to the stage monitored O’Rourke’s whereabouts on the university campus through a Facebook Live feed, anticipating his entrance into the auditorium at the HUB-Robeson Center.

There were several hundred people crammed in the auditorium Tuesday to show their support.

Susan Fletcher was one of them. She said she likes O’Rourke’s political views and how he is running his campaign. Her daughter, Beth King, who was at the event with her, said the two of them would support O’Rourke or another Democratic candidate who wins the nomination for the fall general election.

Another audience member, Jennifer Radel, said she supports O’Rourke because she believes in his messages of unity and having accountability for words and actions. She added she thinks he is a good role model who has integrity.

While many at the event demonstrated their support, there was an audience member who questioned his campaign finances and his policy plans.

Although the candidate raised more than $6.1 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign, O’Rourke assured audience members he was not receiving contributions from lobbyists or political action committees. An audience member inquired about his campaign finances, asking for a public list of donors and the average amount of donations.

The 46-year-old Democratic candidate said he would release a list, but did not say when, when asked by some audience members.

Regarding policies, he noted he has called for marijuana legalization and the expungement of those charged for marijuana use, universal health care through a Medicare for America proposal, starting early education at pre-school age and paying teachers a living wage and treating those struggling with opioids with compassion and holding those responsible for the crisis accountable.

There are 17 other “notable elected officials and public figures” who have entered the presidential race, according to Ballotpedia. Of the 17 other candidates, there are 14 additional Democrats, two Republicans including President Donald Trump, and one Independent.

The 2018 Senate race against Ted Cruz attracted national attention for O’Rourke, who narrowly lost to the Republican senator with about 48 percent of the votes.

From 2013-18, O’Rourke served as a representative for Texas’ 16th District and on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Before his terms in Congress, the candidate was elected to the El Paso City Council in 2005.

He worked at a Manhattan web technology company and co-founded Stanton Street Technology after earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University in 1995.

Currently, only candidate Bill Weld is competing against Trump for the Republican nomination. Bernie Sanders is running as an Independent.

The other Democratic candidates seeking to unseat Trump are Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang, according to Ballotpedia.

As O’Rourke prepared to leave the student center, groups of people gathered around him, some taking photos with him while others simply shook his hand.

He said his next campaign stop is New Hampshire.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.