Government

Beto O'Rourke says he is following 'best calling' on campaign stop in Tipton

Attendees ask why he's not running in Texas

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks at City Park in Tipton on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks at City Park in Tipton on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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In a crowded Democratic field and trailing behind poll leaders, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke was pushed to address during a campaign stop in Tipton on Tuesday why he was running for president rather than campaign for a Texas Senate seat where he stood a better chance of winning.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week he asked O’Rourke to challenge Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and the questioner pointed out O’Rourke could mount a stronger campaign then when he narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz last year.

O’Rourke responded that this was his calling.

“In this position of significance, in this position, it gives us an opportunity to lead this country and bring a very divided nation together, I think that I have found my highest and best calling,” O’Rourke said.

“I’m going to do everything I can during this campaign to demonstrate that, but rest assured, I also will do everything I can, should I not be the nominee to support whoever she or he is not only to defeat Donald Trump, but to make sure that this country’s up to each and every single one of our challenges in 2021.”

Michael Moonjely, 20, of Iowa City who is studying at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said he didn’t “completely buy” the answer.

“If he wanted to make a significant impact on our culture, he would have run for Senate in Texas,” he said.

In his fourth trip to Iowa since announcing his candidacy in March, O’Rourke faced a crowd of some supporters but just as many people there to check him out and ask critical questions such as about whether he should run, if he has the “gravitas” of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and if he could go beyond “nice talk.”

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“I’m not just interested in passing a torch if it’s just nice talk,” one woman said. “What are you willing to stand up for and become a martyr for, and ask us to be a martyr for?”

O’Rourke, who spoke to about 50 people at park pavilion at Tipton City Park, has been among the more active of the 20-plus candidates stopping in 32 counties and holding 62 events so far in rural and urban areas.

Tuesday evening, O’Rourke was scheduled to for a CNN town hall broadcast nationally from Drake University campus.

“Those who could not be here could follow on Livestream, and they can see how I answer the question in Tipton, versus how I answered it in the morning, versus how I answered it in Las Vegas,” O’Rourke said. “And I think that produces some transparency and accountability that we need more of in our politics and in our democracy.”

Sandy Bateman, 65, of Davenport, said she anticipates caucusing for O’Rourke in part because she views him as a moderate willing to work with the other party — a key ingredient she wants to see in a president — and he is younger.

“He’s not so far to the left,” said Bateman, who prefers ‘progressive pragmatism.”

“You have to meet with people in the middle and he seems to truly try to do that,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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