Beto O’Rourke announced Thursday that he is in fact running for president. The Texas politician entered the 2020 race with a call for Americans to look past their differences in order to confront the challenges facing the country.
“This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us,” the 46-year-old Democratic former congressman from Texas said in a video announcing his candidacy. “The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater.”
“They will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America,” he added.
O’Rourke is starting a three-day swing through eastern Iowa on Thursday. He said he will hold a kick-off rally for his campaign in El Paso, Texas, on March 30.
This announcement comes as the culmination of his two-year rise from a back-bench congressman largely unknown outside El Paso to Democratic stardom. He has become a record-breaking fundraiser, the subject of an HBO documentary and the target of two separate efforts to draft him into the presidential campaign. The field he enters for 2020 is crowded with more than a dozen Democrats vying for the party’s nomination.
In his announcement video, O’Rourke said he would run a “positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country.”
“We saw the power of this in Texas, where people allowed no difference, however great or however small, to stand between them and divide us,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke last year lost a bid to oust Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. But that Senate race put O’Rourke into the national spotlight. He shattered fundraising records, ending with taking in $80 million. He finished less than 3 percentage points behind Cruz, much closer than other Democrats had come in recent years against Republicans.
O’Rourke said the 2020 campaign has “got to be about the big things that we hope to achieve and enact and do for one another.”
He said that “the most pressing, the most urgent, the most existential challenge of them all is climate. And the scientists, beyond a shadow of a doubt, know that we have at a maximum 12 years in order to enact significant change to meet that threat and reduce the consequences of the decisions that we made in the past — the consequences that our kids and the generations that follow will bear.”
O’Rourke also laid out what he saw as his top priorities on the eve of his entrance into the 2020 race.
“Rewriting and signing into law immigration policies that reflect who we are and our values and what we know to be true, grounded in the facts,” he said. “Making sure that everybody can see a doctor and live to their full potential. Listening to and then raising up rural communities that for so long have been left behind. Making sure people that are looking for work are able to find it — that they’re equipped with the skills and training and education necessary to maximize their potential. But also investing in people that are already working. … There are so many people in this country working two and three jobs and struggling to make ends meet.”
“The destination cannot be Election Night, November 2020. The destination really has to be the realization of everything this country is capable of doing,” O’Rourke said.