Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke with groups on two sides of the gun access debate on Saturday (Aug. 17) before delivering a nighttime speech to Arkansas Democrats to reach out to every voter possible.
In state to address the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ annual Clinton Day Dinner in Little Rock, O’Rourke spent a busy Saturday at a gun trade expo in Conway, a Mom’s Demand rally at the state capitol, and a Latino supermarket.
O’Rourke, who re-started his paused Presidential campaign this week, talked frequently about the gun assault at an El Paso Walmart that killed 22 people in the former Congressman’s hometown. He said he “sees more clearly” what his role in the 2020 Presidential election will be.
“I don’t think that I truly appreciated the consequence and the cost of Donald Trump until someone who was inspired by his very hateful rhetoric – his warnings of invasions and Hispanics and immigrants and Mexicans coming into this country – drove 600 miles from Allen, Texas to El Paso, Texas, opened fire with an AK-47 in a Walmart and killed 22 people and injured dozens more,” O’Rourke said in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock.
“The urgency that I feel, the anger that I feel, I want to make sure that I share that with this country. And also, the solutions that I see in El Paso and our differences, whether they’re of immigration status or ethnicity or anything else aren’t disqualifying, they aren’t dangerous. In fact, they make us stronger, they make us better, safer and more secure,” he said.
O’Rourke has advocated for strengthening background checks, banning assault rifles, and launching a national gun buyback program. He said listening and learning from gun owners, such as the ones at the trade show in Conway, is important to bridge the divisive gaps on gun control and freedom that he believes can be overcome. When asked if he would push for gun control through executive order or through Congress, if he’s elected, O’Rourke said he’d try to work with Congress first.
“I think the best possible way forward is through Congress, working with Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike,” he said.
The former Congressman, who lost a high-profile U.S. Senate race in 2018 to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, by less than three percent, said he thinks a Democrat will defeat Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is up for re-election in 2020. O’Rourke told MSNBC host Lawrence McDonnell this week that he would not “in any scenario run for the U.S. Senate.” In the Talk Business & Politics interview, O’Rourke explained why he thought one of the seven announced challengers to Cornyn could win in 2020.
“I know that a Democrat will win and defeat John Cornyn and serve our state in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “I think they’ll be able to build on what we saw in 2018.”
Touting cross-party appeal, persuasion with Independent voters, and youth engagement, O’Rourke said that a Presidential election year turnout bodes well for the eventual Democratic nominee.
“That [my campaign] was in a mid-term year, almost eclipsed Presidential year election turnout,” he said. “In a Presidential election year like 2020, I’m confident that that mobilized Democratic base, those Independents who are voting for the person not the party, and those Republicans who do not see a home for themselves in the party of Donald Trump, are going to elect a Democrat to represent us in the U.S. Senate.”
O’Rourke also discussed his relationship with former Razorbacks basketball coach Nolan Richardson, who is a native of El Paso, and Rep. Denise Garner, D-Fayetteville, who ousted Second Amendment advocate Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, in last year’s legislative election. Watch his full interview below.