‘He was in the flesh:’ O’Rourke visit excites El Centro

Beto ORourke speaks about the biggest issues in the state of Texas and his actions as governor if elected.  Photo by Rory Moore/The Et Cetera.

RORY MOORE/THE ET CETERA

Beto O’Rourke speaks about the biggest issues in the state of Texas and his actions as governor if elected. Photo by Rory Moore/The Et Cetera.

CARMEN GUZMAN, Editor in Chief

With no remaining seats in sight, attendees filled the floor of El Centro’s performance hall in anticipation of governor candidate Beto O’ Rourke’s Oct. 3 rally.

Five minutes before O’Rourke’s scheduled 12:30 p.m. appearance, attendees called for the candidate. The room’s deafening chatter culminated into fanfare when O’Rourke entered the scene at 12:44 p.m.

Organizers passed a microphone to the candidate, but none of his words came through. The crowd laughed when he was given a spare.

“If your first microphone doesn’t work, try and try again,” O’Rourke began.

O’Rourke held a 35-minute speech at El Centro, his fourth stop on a college tour across Texas. His objective is to register as many young voters to secure his ticket to the governor’s seat, which will be decided during the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Voter registration officials affiliated with O’Rourke’s campaign sat outside the rally to get attendees registered. Inside the performance hall, volunteers in high-visibility jackets scrambled to get attendees signed up for door-to-door awareness campaigns.

“[You] will provide the margin of victory when we do this for each other,” O’Rourke said. “Imagine winning this together, and in this state.”

Since losing to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by 2.9 points during the 2018 midterm elections, O’Rourke has leaned more into promoting voter turnout, especially among quieter demographics such as youth.

“I’ll tell you something that’s different about this year when we were here in 2018: this place was not full,” O’Rourke said. “We didn’t have this level of energy or excitement.”

El Centro’s chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, organized the event. The organization worked with O’Rourke’s campaign representatives for over a month.

“We were excited, I couldn’t believe it,” LULAC president Walter Herrera said. “We know that he goes to bigger universities in Texas, but to come to a community college really speaks to his character.

Fatima Cruz, LULAC member and neuroscience major, joined Herrera as one of the introductory speakers. Initially, they planned to host a panel but were limited due to time constraints.

At 12:50 p.m., Herrera and Cruz passed the microphone to O’Rourke.

“It was nerve-wracking because I had never met Beto,” Cruz said. “He was in the flesh.”

LULAC attempted to arrange a visit from incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, but the governor’s campaign declined.

“Fortunately, we did have Beto,” Cruz said. “His team responded nicely and quickly. I didn’t think they would respond that fast.”

O’Rourke began with a slew of issues he attributes to Abbott’s administration, primarily reproductive rights, voting accessibility and immigration.

Shootings and gun control are a primary talking point of O’Rourke’s platform. The candidate maintains his stance on more restrictions despite Republicans using gun control rhetoric to target his numbers.

The Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24 bolstered O’Rourke’s platform against Abbott’s firearm policies.

“I’m leaning towards Beto,” associate of arts major Esgar Rangel said. “Abbott isn’t doing a good job right now, especially after Uvalde happened under his administration.”

O’Rourke crashed Abbott’s May 25 news conference to criticize his response to the shooting.

“I want [Texas] to be safer,” Rangel said. “It’s a bit broad, but I don’t want to be shot up at Walmart.”

Halfway into his speech, O’Rourke listed shootings that occurred under Abbott’s administration.

“Sutherland Springs, Sante Fe High School and now Uvalde,” O’Rourke said. “weeks and this governor has not lifted a finger.”

Attendees erupted into cheers numerous times whenever O’Rourke spoke about current policy issues.

The winter storm in 2021 is another talking point O’Rourke leverages against Abbott. Since then, left-leaning politicians have used the incident to rally against Texas republicans.

“The freeze happened because Texas isn’t on the public grid, and it killed a lot of people,” teaching major Daniel Smith said.

Beto O’Rourke supporters cheer him on during his speech inside El Centro. (RORY MOORE/THE ET CETERA)

Texas’ power grid comprises private providers, which several blame for the incident. The storm left thousands of Texans in the dark and killed 246.

“Those who made $11 billion in suffering off our fellow Texans last February, we’re getting every penny of that back and returning it to [Texans] to bring down our utility bills,” O’Rourke said.

Despite having an entire stage for himself, O’Rourke opted to stand close to where the audience sat.

At 1:14 p.m., O’Rourke rounded off his speech with an expression of gratitude before hosting a line for selfies with attendees.

“He’s a person with passion for helping,” Smith said.

When O’Rourke wrapped up his speech, the room stood up and burst into a round of applause.

“It’s gonna take all of us, doing all we can with what we have,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”

Trailing behind Abbott’s seven-point lead, O’Rourke’s campaign shifted to appeasing as many groups as possible, especially marginalized Texans.

In between disparaging the Abbott administration, he padded his audience with praise, stating that high voter turnout will carry him to the state capitol.

“You know that [friends and family] trust you when they see you describing why this election is the most important of your life,” O’Rourke sad. “I guarantee you they’re more likely to vote and we are more likely to win.”

 

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