Congressman Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke visited the Texas State campus Sept. 9 as he continues his tour of every county in the state ahead of the Nov. 9 midterm elections.
Over 1,500 people attended the town hall event at the LBJ Student Center, forcing a number of attendees to be relocated to an overflow area in Alkek Library.
The town hall event was hosted by Jolt at TXST, Interruptions, Hip-Hop Congress, Underrepresented Student Advisory Council, NAACP Unit 6875-B, Latinas Unidas, Lamba, Queer Cats, College Democrats of TXST, SCOPE and PAAC.
Gabby Garza, president of Jolt at Texas State, said the idea of bringing O’Rourke to campus stemmed from trying to find a way to get the Texas State community excited to vote and saw O’Rourke as the perfect person to promote the message.
“We recognize his hard work and dedication as he has campaigned across all 254 counties in Texas,” Garza said. “His genuine concern for the voices of all people, regardless of party or ideology, has especially caught our attention as he continues to promote bipartisanship in our country.”
According to O’Rourke, the event served as a way for him to listen to supporters and non-supporters as well as answer questions.
“Before we are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, we are Americans,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke discussed topics including climate change and renewable energies in Texas, healthcare, safety and immigration, living wages and education, the criminal justice system, the war on drugs and discrimination against ethnic minority groups.
“Everything is on the line, everything you could possibly care about and how this country will be defined for generations to come,” O’Rourke said. “Are we a country of walls, of Muslim bans, or the press as the enemy of the people? Are we going to take little kids away from their parents after they survived the long journey from Mexico or are we going to be defined by our ambitions, those things we want to achieve.”
Students, faculty, staff, San Marcos residents and more came to see the congressman who is hoping to unseat Senate incumbent Ted Cruz.
Sherri Benn, director for the office of Student Diversity and Inclusion and adviser to the student groups who organized the event, said the town hall was key to students engaging in the political process while bringing together the San Marcos community.
“First of all, I think it’s really important that (the audience) was both Texas State students and the community, who were here together. They are part of this community and should always be included in what we do,” Benn said. “The other thing is that I was just really proud of our students for engaging in the political process and to me, that’s a really good sign about the interest that students have in politics and I think it’s really important because students are the future leaders of our country.”
Linda Hammon, a retired high school teacher currently residing in New Braunfels and graduate from Texas State, drove to San Marcos to see O’Rourke.
“I like his message, I wanted to see him in person, I like how energetic he is and how he is really running for certain policies, not against a policy,” Hammon said. “I think that’s extremely important and the way he talks about running for the people of Texas and for the people of this country and not for a party is extremely important.”
Brianah Rodriguez, political science senior, has been a supporter of Beto for a long time and wanted to show him Texas State students are backing him up as well.
“When it comes to the different stances Beto has, he is very genuine. It’s not just a one-sided thing, like he said in his town hall,” Rodriguez said. “If you’re going to be in a public office that is extremely vital because you don’t just work just for a party, you work for the people. The fact that he is so open and so willing to be inclusive of everyone is extremely important because we do need a senator like that.”
Jorge Machado identifies as a Mexican-American conservative and is a Texas State alumnus from El Paso. He held a “Talk with a Mexican-American conservative” sign to “hear different points of view and help people be informed rather than just following the flow,” Machado said.
Machado asked O’Rourke during the audience portion of the event about the individual’s right to choose, regarding both reproductive rights of women and the right to send children to private schools over public schools.
“He answered both questions separately and I wanted to merge them,” Machado said. “He supported the individual’s right for choice and I support that individual’s right to choose and even though I don’t morally support it, I understand where he’s coming from. As for the question he answered, if he’s for the individual’s rights, he should be for the individual’s right to choose what’s best for you across the board. If not, then he should say so.”
O’Rourke has been serving in the House of Representatives as a Democrat since 2013. Now, he is working to unseat current Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been serving in the Senate since 2013.