Beto O’Rourke is a former congressman from Texas, a social media superstar and a fundraising machine who lost to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by three points in the 2018 midterms. His full name is Robert Francis O’Rourke, and he has the photo to prove he’s been called “Beto” since childhood.
A high school and college punk rocker, O’Rourke later became a city councilman and an underdog congressional candidate who won his seat by upsetting a 16-year Democratic incumbent. He is a multimillionaire Gen Xer and a dad of three who is not Latino but is fluent in Spanish.
Here is where O’Rourke stands on eight key issues in the 2020 presidential race.
Climate change: Return to Paris climate agreement.
O’Rourke would return the U.S. to the international Paris climate accord, under which the U.S. pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by the year 2025. In general, O’Rourke focuses on the economic potential of renewable fuels and the economic hazards of not addressing climate change. It is unclear if he supports deeper carbon emissions cuts or a carbon tax. He would allow fracking, but with tighter oversight.
Education: Make pre-K education universal. The first two years of higher education should be debt free.
O’Rourke believes the nation must address racial disparities in education, and he would begin with universal pre-kindergarten education. He would also make the first two years at public or community colleges debt free, a plan he would pay for by raising the corporate tax rate.
Guns: Ban assault weapons. Require universal background checks.
Assault weapons should be for military use only, O’Rourke believes. He would ban them for personal sale or use. O’Rourke would expand background checks to make them universal for all gun purchases. He has said he is ready to debate a possible ban on high-capacity magazines, which allow weapons to fire many rounds without reloading.
Health care: Create a government-run health insurance plan as one option for Americans.
O’Rourke wants to create a health care “public option” he called “Medicare-X,” which would offer all Americans a government-run insurance plan as a potential choice. It would leave employer-sponsored health insurance and other core elements of the current system intact.
Immigration: Give legal status to most undocumented residents and a path to citizenship for all Dreamers.
During his six years in Congress, O’Rourke represented a border area in Texas. He believes the border is secure, and would give legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in the country now. He has said he would like so-called “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, to get citizenship “today.” O’Rourke says he is “open” to the idea of abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, so long as there is a plan to transfer the agency’s core responsibilities elsewhere.
Social Issues: Abortion should be legal and with fewer restrictions. Discrimination based on sexual preference should be illegal. The military should welcome transgender recruits.
An abortion-rights supporter, O’Rourke co-sponsored a bill that would have prohibited states from adding any limits to abortions before a fetus is considered viable, and placed no limits on abortions after viability if a doctor concludes the life or health of the mother is at risk. He has voted against efforts to limit abortions to 20 weeks of pregnancy or less.
O’Rourke would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual preference, and give same-sex married couples access to all the benefits of heterosexual couples. He opposes banning transgender people from the military.
Trade: Keep NAFTA largely intact.
Hailing from a border area that relies on trade with Mexico, O’Rourke supports the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and has indicated he would not significantly renegotiate it. He also supported other large trade deals including, in 2015, the initial attempts by Congress to move forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Afghanistan and Syria: It is not clear where O’Rourke stands on President Donald Trump’s proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.
O’Rourke has said he thinks U.S. policy in Syria should be debated and discussed in a more meaningful way. It is not clear if he supports troop withdrawal from the country. Likewise it is not clear if he would withdraw troops from Afghanistan.