In a candid, in-depth interview from a three-star hotel room in Lubbock, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke discusses Republican claims of border insecurity, Democratic claims of border security and agriculture as a national defense. As well as the need for his a base to be much broader than white liberals who despise Trump if O’Rourke is to become the next U.S. Senator from Texas.
See full transcript below.
Other topics include care for veterans, the Odyssey, building b2b websites, gerrymandering, New York Times Madden Curse, ‘getting a helluva lot smarter on agriculture and nickname battles of ‘Beto’ vs ‘Ted.’
In the 36-minute discussion, host Jay Leeson and O’Rourke somehow manage to name-drop Ralph Yarborough, Lloyd Bentsen, Sam Rayburn, John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and John Tower, the Texan who won an unlikely Senate seat when the state was a very different political shade than his own.
Full transcript below. Audio is also available on iTunes. From the OSTX on 4/9/2018.
Leeson: Beto O’Rourke is a Democratic U.S. Representative from El Paso. A former rowing team captain. Former punk rock bassist and El Paso City Councilman. Now he’s running for U.S. Senate versus Ted Cruz and he’s amassed some $13 million in contributions, to date, while doing it.
Leeson: Thanks for making time to visit us while you’re here in Lubbock, Representative. Last time, not nearly the crowds or the schedule bustle, but now you’re making time to sit down with us here. You’re even making time to rescue dogs while you’re in town.
O’Rourke: Yeah. We, yesterday in Matador, met this beautiful dog named Blondie, who as we were coming out from lunch with former County Commissioner Jan Fletcher, who was great. Met her acquaintance. Hung out with her for a little while and just made the day, but then coming to Lubbock and having that great town hall yesterday at (Texas) Tech, meeting all these amazing people…
Leeson: That was more of a city hall than a town hall, given the crowd.
O’Rourke: That was amazing. We did not know what to expect and as you said, last time we were in Lubbock, we saw nowhere near that kind of turnout, but this is my sixth visit to Lubbock. Our fifth town hall and every time I learn a little bit more, meet new friends, and then those friends reach out to their family members and classmates and colleagues and say, “Hey, just come out and hear this guy out” or “share with him what’s on your mind.” And people did. So thank you for spending some time with us.
Leeson: Well, I’m just glad to be here. Glad to be in the show. So tell me… literature major. Columbia. Favorite book?
O’Rourke: The Odyssey. Absolutely. And then reading and only … I’m not smart enough to learn on my own. Only with the help of a great professor … I was able to read Ulysses by James Joyce, which of course is the same story just told in what was then modern times set in Ireland. That blew me away and was just amazing and I think the ability to tell the stories of our lives, what’s going on and connect with other people, that’s part of being human.
O’Rourke: And so my parent’s deeply disappointed me. They were taking out loans. They knew I was taking out loans. I had a work-study job. Why would we all go through this sacrifice so you could read books? You can do that on your own time. Learn how to be an engineer or a doctor or an attorney or an accountant. There’s definitely some sense to that, but I’m glad that I did that. It was an amazing experience.
Leeson: But you went on to succeed in business.
O’Rourke: I got lucky. So I graduated with this English degree from Columbia in 1995 just as the internet and the web are taking off. And I got a job as a proofreader making near minimum wage and then someone said, “I’ll offer you three-times that if over the weekend you’ll learn hypertext markup language, HTML, and help me program these websites.” And so, of course, I did that as a 22-year-old staring to pay back student loan debt. And then moved back to El Paso in ’98 and with some friends started a business building websites, later online software, later business to business web-based technologies, and in the process, created dozens of high skilled, high waged jobs in a place that you wouldn’t’ expect it.
O’Rourke: El Paso’s not where you’re going to go to start a tech company. And yet, sometimes, being in the unexpected places you really are able to find talent and opportunities that other’s wouldn’t see.
Leeson: This is an unexpected place, this campaign, for many. The New York Times, recently, about a week ago, wrote … the title was Ted Cruz is Facing an Unusual Challenge of Formidably Funded Democrat. It turned out to be a pretty glowing feature about you, but in Texas politics, isn’t the New York Times the equivalent of the Madden curse?
O’Rourke: I don’t know. I don’t have enough grasp of Texas political history. We’re grateful that the New York Times takes some interest in what we’re doing, but the Avalanche-Journal, the El Paso Times, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times; those are the papers that matter to us. And nothing makes me happier than being on the front page of Madisonville Meteor or the Bryan Daily Eagle. That’s what counts, but listen, if the New York Times is excited and they can help us reach subscribers here in Texas, great.
Leeson: Well, I’m going to push you on that Texas political history part and ask you, as a Democrat are you running in the mold of a Ralph Yarborough or a Lloyd Bentsen? Because the question that’s beginning to emerge is Beto … may I just call you Beto?
O’Rourke: Yeah, of course.
Leeson: Is Beto going to have the entire Democratic party behind him, or is his support just going to be the tired old, largely… well, a base that largely consists of white liberals who hate Donald Trump?
Leeson: If the latter, is that a winning strategy? I’d argue that it’s not.
O’Rourke: I am too young. I was born in ’72, to remember Ralph Yarborough. Old enough to remember Lloyd Bentsen and in 1988, when he ran, I was 16 years old and his demeanor, his civility, the dignity with which he carried himself and the fact that … I really got the sense that every single one of us mattered. Didn’t care if you were Democrat, if you were Republican. And talking to those … although Senator Benson is gone now, talking to those who were a part of those campaigns and they said, “We would fly into Lubbock and we would hold meetings here, but then we would be in Tulia, we would be in Matador. We would go up to Amarillo. We’d be in Canyon. We would use this as a hub, the Hub City, to connect with the people who hadn’t seen … maybe their member of Congress or a statewide candidate in a long time.”
O’Rourke: And I’m struck by the fact that so often I am told that. We were in Archer City and someone said, “We haven’t seen somebody in decades.” We were in Atlanta, Texas. They haven’t seen their member of Congress ever because the district is so gerrymandered, that member of Congress never has to go two hours east to Atlanta. And so when we show up, I don’t know if they’re excited to see me or not or if they’re going to vote for me, but they want to give me a piece of their minds because they want to hold someone accountable. So I think Lloyd Bentsen’s model of running holds some appeal to me. And yet, we’ve got to do our own thing in 2018. And just be literally everywhere, in all 254 counties.
Leeson: Beto O’Rourke joining us here. This audio is available at the OtherSideofTexas.com. Sticking with Texas political history, this past weekend marked the anniversary that only political nerds like me would know and that is that on April 7, 1913, Sam Rayburn was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives. Of course, he would go on to be the longest serving Speaker of the House. And I reference that anniversary here with you, Beto, because Texas has a long storied political legacy in D.C. and it’s… like, I think from Rayburn even whatever one might think of John Cornyn, I think highly of John Cornyn, but for him to be the whip in the Senate…
O’Rourke: Yeah, it’s great.
Leeson: It is certainly an asset for Texas, but Texans have always worked themselves into these positions.
Leeson: But it’s in light of this history that I’m completely baffled that both Texas senators, as well as the man challenging the junior senator, voted against the 2014 Farm Bill, as you sit right in the cotton epicenter of the universe.
Leeson: This opposition to agriculture is an anomaly in Texas political history. One would mark that up, a vote against the Farm Bill, as opposition to agriculture. Take a moment and explain that vote in 2014 and your hindsight on it now.
O’Rourke: Yeah. So I believe that vote for the 2014 Farm Bill took place in 2013.
O’Rourke: And I may not have dates exactly right, but looking back on my notes, which I just did, anticipating your question, our concern at the time was a significant cut in the House version for the nutrition program. And one of the geniuses of the Farm Bill is you’re able to marry rural agricultural interests and urban nutrition interests. And it is one of the last hallmarks of bipartisanship in Congress.
O’Rourke: And that, in 2013, as it seems to have appeared to be happening again today had broken down. But I’ll tell you and in all honesty, I don’t know … I know that I was in no way as informed then as I am today on this issue. I come from an urban district in El Paso. We don’t have a lot of farmers. I didn’t grow up on a farm. I don’t have farming experience. I will admit to that ignorance. Since then, I’ve gotten a helluva lot smarter. Whether it’s meeting with the cotton growers here in Lubbock multiple times.
O’Rourke: Yesterday in Tulia, meeting with both cotton growers and corn growers, being on a farm in Dawson and meeting somebody whose growing wheat and cotton, and listening to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle. Including the chairman, Mike Conaway of the ag committee, who helped me understand the importance of price support for cotton seed, which was missing from that Farm Bill, which absolutely has to be in this next one. So I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter by listening to my fellow Texans, and especially in West Texas, who understand this a lot better than I did at the time.
O’Rourke: And so, as you said, the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had spent more time listening to those whose livelihoods depend on this. Who made a really good case for me. That beyond their ability to survive and their family’s ability to take on this incredibly difficult work, they’ve made a really good case that this is in the broader national interest. When we can feed ourselves because we’re growing our own fiber, when we can … I’m sorry, when we can clothes, ourselves because we’re growing our own fiber and we can feed ourselves because we’re growing our own food and when we can export to markets around the world that drive this Texas economy, that’s good for everybody. Even if you live in a farming community. Even if you do not.
O’Rourke: So I think I have much different perspective on this now. I’m getting smarter. I’m not where I want to be yet, but that’s why we’re spending so much time in West Texas and in farming communities to learn from those who do understand this.
Leeson: You’re close enough to the situation that you have a broad idea of what the general Farm Bill is going to written up as. Based on what you know today, are you prepared … would you be prepared to vote for the 2018 Farm Bill. I understand there are a lot of politics that are going to play out, but, in principle, it’s already written.
O’Rourke: The answer is yes. In principle, conceptually, yes I want to be there to support that Farm Bill. I want to be more involved. Although I’m not on the committee of the jurisdiction, I’m on House Armed Services and House Veteran’s Affairs. I’d love to be more involved in the discussion about how we satisfy both the need to make sure that these farmers living on the thinnest of margins, who are really struggling … I just met two young farmers. One who just graduated from college. Another whose in his last year at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
O’Rourke: They said, “We’re coming back to a livelihood, really because this is how we were raised. We know it’s the right thing to do. We have no expectation that we’re even going to be able to make ends meet and my wife and I, he just got married, are having the discussion right now, does she go back to work instead of raising our kids so that we have the income to support what we’re doing. To pay that note to the banker.”
Leeson: I want to jump in and the reason I brought this up is to grill you a little bit, because, to be fair and people who are familiar with me know that I’ve certainly grilled your opponent, who I’ve cited … not only did he oppose the Farm Bill, he procedurally blocked it in 2014. But he’s bent in a lot of ways since that time and he’s begun to show signs. Do you think that those … it’s credible? The movement that Ted Cruz has made in agriculture?
O’Rourke: I don’t know enough about the positions he’s taken on this to give you an intelligent answer. And to your point earlier, I would hope that Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, myself, all 38 members of the Texas delegation can get around a Farm Bill that we can support and that we can make better.
O’Rourke: And so, though Cruz and I are both running for the same position of public trust, I don’t think we have to be opposed to each other on this one and if we can work together to the common interests of Texas and the farmers of Texas, let’s do it. And let’s not let this be a point of division for either of us or for the state.
Leeson: Let’s get in with Cruz. Why should Republicans be disappointed with Ted Cruz?
O’Rourke: You know, I think our two records of service offer a helpful contrast. We’re both elected in 2012. He to the Senate. I to the House. In that time I’ve held 93 town hall meetings in El Paso. And I don’t mean, like, captive audience town hall meetings, at the factory, with just the school teachers, with just this interest group or the other. Big, public town halls. All comers welcome. No holds barred. And not always easy. And I’ll tell you, Jay, I go into those town halls with a little bit of fear in my belly because I’m going to face the people who put me into this position and account for myself.
O’Rourke: That has made me a better representative. That’s given me ideas with which I can run legislation. I’ve literally been able to introduce. And a bullshit check on me coming back and saying, “You know what? I couldn’t get this Bill passed because those darn Republicans stood in my way.” I know my constituents won’t stand for that. They’ll say, “Find the Republican who can help me get that thing done.” And we have. And we just passed a bill signed into law by Donald J. Trump, President Trump, that will expand mental health care access for veterans. Could not have gotten it done without working with Republicans.
O’Rourke: Ted Cruz, in that same period of time, literally, not even a year after he’s been sworn to serve the people of Texas, has left the state of Texas and traveled to all 99 counties of Iowa. Now, those people in Iowa are important, but he was sworn to serve the people of Texas, and there are 254 counties in Texas. And the biggest applause line or laugh line that I get at any town hall meeting we hold across the state of Texas is “Tell me the last time Ted Cruz was here holding a town hall where any of you could ask any question, level any criticism, raise any ideas?” Because he just has not done that.
O’Rourke: Not only can he not work with Democrats to get things accomplished for Texas, he cannot work with Republicans to get things accomplished for Texas. So he’s made no bones about it. He’s running for president. As he did in 2016. He will not commit to serving out a full Senate term. He will not commit to not running for President. We need a full-time Senator who focuses on every single one of us, regardless of party, visits all of the 254 counties, and listens to those that he wants to serve and represent. That’s why I think Republicans have an opportunity to work with someone who has worked with Republicans to get legislation passed, who holds himself accountable to Republicans, as well as Democrats and Independents and is going to work with anyone, anywhere, anytime to further the agenda of this state and this country.
Leeson: Beto O’Rourke joining us here on Other Side of Texas.
Leeson: The name Beto, I’ve been surprised that the first day after the primaries … I was surprised to see the Cruz crew go after you based on your name.
Leeson: Of anything to hit you on Day One, and certainly there’s a lot of contrast between the respected platforms and the parties, it was your name. Surprising to me, because the implication seems to be, “Here’s a contrived politician. Contrived from the name up.” Which, with all due respect to the junior senator, is a helluva an argument for someone to make whose name is Raphael Cruz. Tell me what you made of those beginning assaults in the campaign, and will it remain that way? Well, we’ll just go after each other’s names?
O’Rourke: You know, honestly, I was kind of encouraged, because all of the energy and all of the interest and all the excitement, and I think the path to victory in Texas is with the big ideas. The ambitious goals that we have as a state. And so people are not asking me at town hall meetings about my nickname. They’re not asking about Cruz’s nickname. They’re asking about healthcare. Or price-support for cotton seed. Or public school teachers who are struggling to make ends meet while they have perhaps the most important job in our community.
O’Rourke: They wonder why we’re at war for 17 years. The longest war we’ve ever had in Afghanistan with no end in sight. They want to know that those who return from battle are going to be cared for. That they’re going to be able to use their post 9/11 GI Bill to go to Texas Tech. They’re not worried about our names. And so I thought, “Look, if he’s going to focus on that, more power to him. Keep it up, buddy. We’re going to stay with the people of Texas who want us on the big, ambitious, aspirational goals for this state and this country.” So I was heartened to see that line of attack. And we just did … we hope he keeps at it.
Leeson: Let’s go to the border, figuratively, for just a moment. What’s becoming more and more evident to regular everyday Texans is how the GOP manipulates and exploits concerns about border insecurity. A great proof of this came last week, or over the past couple of weeks, when the “caravan” claims emerged. That there was a huge caravan of migrants, at this point, crossing into Mexico and headed towards the border. This eventuated with the presidential order to send National Guard to the border, but along the way there were folks, like Breitbart Texas’ Brandon Darby calling out the silliness of the caravan concerns.
Leeson: In many ways it was Darby hollering into a hurricane, because of the hysteria that had been whipped up at that point. And that’s the GOP side. Now, Beto, on the Democratic side, there’s claims of border security. That the border is secure, which to me is as much nonsense as the GOP side, especially if one’s scope of the border includes the brutal conditions in Northern Mexico.
Leeson: Now you’ve made arguments that certainly imply or say straightforward that the border is safe. Have I given a fair assessment there and how can one say that border is safe?
O’Rourke: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever said the border is safe. I think I’ve said the border is as safe as it has been in our lifetimes. And let’s just stick with the facts.
Leeson: On our side.
Leeson: Not on the Mexican side.
O’Rourke: That’s right.
O’Rourke: But to answer the call for a wall, $30 billion, 2,000 miles long, or to send the United States military to the United States/Mexico border when we know there have been tragic outcomes when we’ve done that in the past, at a time that we’re seeing record-low northbound apprehensions. The first year of George W. Bush presidency there were 1.6 million apprehensions at the U.S. Mexico border. Last year, just a little over 300,000.
O’Rourke: It doesn’t mean that the border is safe. Period. There is still human smuggling. There is still drug smuggling taking place. There is still the threat, though it has never materialized, that someone wanting to attack this country could exploit the 2,000 mile border with Mexico. To be vigilant against that we have 20,000 border patrol agents, which is double what we had in 2006, to guard against all of the threats that we might have. And we can always do better. We can always be smarter, but a wall won’t get it done.
O’Rourke: And the paranoia that’s being whipped up is counter-productive to the Texas economy. I’ll tell you why. Standing in a cotton field in Dawson, Texas with a farmer there who is a Republican, he said, “Let me ask you about the border, because you’re from El Paso. When I have coffee on Saturday morning with my friends, everyone’s talking about the immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs.” And he said, “I called BS on them.” And I said, “Have any of you had your job taken by an immigrant?” And they all said, “No.” “Well, what about your sons or daughters?” “No.” “A second-cousin? Someone that you’ve actually met and can verify?” “Well, no.”
O’Rourke: What I do know was when I was in the cotton gin in Roscoe, Texas, there are 24 jobs there, and not a single person born in Roscoe or nearby Sweetwater or anywhere in that area is willing to work a single one of those. When I was with a cotton farmer in Quannah, Texas, who cannot find anyone born in Quannah or any of the nearby counties to work those jobs. They tell me that they are one of their biggest struggles is finding the labor. Specifically immigrants who are willing, in a very hostile environment, to still come to Texas and do the hardest work imaginable that native born Texans won’t do for whatever reason. No judgment here. That’s just the facts.
O’Rourke: So I think we have to think about Texas’ self-interest at a time that the Dallas Fed estimates a million jobs in the state depend on the U.S. Mexico relationship. We lose that relationship to our peril, and to your point, we have to be intellectually honest. We have to say that the border may be as safe as it’s been in our lifetimes, it can be safer. We can do a better job. There are still threats there, but we don’t have to be paranoid about Mexicans coming to get us. Caravans invading the country. Let’s be honest about these issues.
Leeson: Well, look I graduated in 1997 in Hale County and in the 90’s to now … at that time, I went to school with migrants. Migrants came and went and lots of times stayed. Though illegally, but that was at a time when migrant workers were as common as cornbread. Now the difference between the mid-90s and now is the emergence of the Mexican drug cartels. Ruthless Mexican drug cartels and, Beto, whenever I listen to you make that argument, I, and I think a lot of other people, believe that Mexico is a failed state. And so that border … how secure can that border ever be? Given the failure of the state and the epidemic of the cartel?
O’Rourke: Yeah, I mean, you have to ask yourself, who would care more about that then I would? I’m raising an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 7-year-old in the largest border community on the U.S.-Mexico border. El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez, by the way to your point, was one of if not the deadliest cities on the face of the planet not more than six years ago. So no one’s more concerned than I am about that. I’m literally have raising my family and represent the people of El Paso in the United States Congress. And that’s our primary responsibility. The safety and the well-being of the people that you represent.
O’Rourke: But the fact of the matter is that El Paso has remained one of, if not the safest cities, in America. So we can either be governed by our fears about what might happen or by the facts on the ground. And understand that we do have a responsibility. Not to the people of Mexico, to the people of Texas and the United States of America to acknowledge that there is some real challenges in Mexico. There is a cartel economy in that country. There is the failure of the rule of law in that country. There’s endemic corruption among police and government officials in that country. I acknowledge all of those things.
O’Rourke: Some of the solutions include ensuring that we have policy on this side of the border that acknowledges some of our complicity. Where 5% of the globe’s population, 25% of the globe’s illegal drug market. To the point that kids in Juarez are literally willing to kill or be killed for the privilege of bringing marijuana, legal in 29 states in the Union, into the state of Texas. For that reason, among many others, I’m a co-sponsor with a Republican colleague of a bill that would end the Federal prohibition on marijuana. That is not a silver bullet. It would not solve all of our problems. It would, however, remove a fundamental pillar to the cartel economy in Mexico. We are sending hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to those organizations that use that money to recruit, to arm themselves, and to be able to commit crime with impunity. And I’m going to concede the point that you made earlier.
O’Rourke: We were in Martin County two weeks ago meeting with the Sheriff of Martin County … sorry two days ago, meeting with the Sheriff of Martin County. He said, “I have two MS-13 gang members in my jail right now.” He said, “I’m really concerned about this, Beto.” So I’m not going to say that there is not a threat or reason to be concerned. I just think that we can do this in a much more rational, sane way than the rhetoric that dominates today would suggest.
Leeson: Back to the point though, about your base and whether it’s going to be the whole Democratic party or just white liberals who hate Trump. There are Democrats … and I think this is what gets a lot of people’s consternation is there are Democrats who won’t even have heard a word you just said in a pragmatic sense … for them the border it’s a larger … and I’m going to characterize this and you may disagree, but this is how I believe it to be true. The border is a difficult issue for a party that has completely and totally embraced diversity at all costs, inclusion at all costs because the border, by definition, is exclusionary. You have to exclude people.
O’Rourke: That’s right.
Leeson: And I think for liberals, that’s the hang up with the border. That we can’t just express humanitarianism at all costs and exclude some people.
O’Rourke: Yeah and I’ll tell you, I can do a better job on that. And my wife actually, Amy, she’s a lot smarter than I am and has a lot more common sense, has said, “Hey Beto, I really think it’s important that beyond talking about the fact that many, if not most of those who are coming to the border now, at record low levels of apprehension, are kids and young families from Central America and we need to make sure they follow an asylum law that we have for asylum seekers. And if they don’t qualify, they need to go back to their country of origin.” That is the rule of the law and it is the distinction between the United States of America and the Republic of Mexico. They unfortunately do not have the rule of law in that country and we don’t want to succumb to that.
O’Rourke: So I’m with you on this. I think we have to be intellectually honest and talk about the fact that, that border has a purpose. And it is the line that not just joins us with Mexico in many positive ways, but also separates us from the rest of the world. And both of those things, as hard as they are to hold in our heads at the same time, have to be honored. The opportunity, I guess, is that Texas, of all states in the Union, we are the most diverse state. We are the defining immigrant story. We should be the ones to lead the way in the national conversation about immigration and it should be Jay Leeson at the table. It should be Beto O’Rourke. It should be folks who have different perspectives and come to different conclusions, having the conversation. I’ll tell you what doesn’t work.
O’Rourke: When they began this debate in the Senate eight weeks ago and specific to Dreamers and DACA. 98 Senators showed up to work that day. 97 voted to begin the debate and the discussion, which obligated not a single one of them to a specific conclusion. One senator, and it was our junior senator from the state of Texas, voted no. Inexplicably. Not only should we have a seat at the table when immigration comes up and border security comes up, we should be leading the conversation for the country. Today we are not doing that.
Leeson: I’m seeing a couple of staffers getting jittery. So a couple more minutes here. And we’ll get you on your way. How have you worked … people will call you a maverick on the Hill … how have you worked with the delegation and how have you worked with Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas specifically?
O’Rourke: So with John Cornyn, I’ve been able to introduce legislation specifically on the border. So we can meet legitimate concerns at the border with walls and military presence and rhetoric that seeks to scare and incite fear. Or we can be common sense and rational about it. John Cornyn, Republican. Beto O’Rourke, Democrat. Senate, House. Bipartisan, bicameral, introduced legislation that would improve funding and resources and infrastructure at our ports of entry because 99% of everything that comes in to this country, including the state of Texas, comes through ports of entry. The legitimate goods and trade and travelers and those things that we don’t want in this country.
O’Rourke: And so Cornyn and I came to the common sense conclusion that if we have more customs officers, if we facilitate more legitimate trade upon which the economy of Texas depends, more legitimate travel, which especially border communities depend; Mexican nationals spend a billion and a half in the El Paso economy every year. My mom was a small business owner. Had a small furniture store. Half her sales were to Mexican nationals.
O’Rourke: If we do that, not only are we going to help drive the Texas economy and see greater employment. We are going to help make us more secure because we’ll have a better idea of who and what is coming into this country. So I have a good working relationship with the senator. I’ve been to visit the governor in the capitol, unfortunately schedules didn’t work out and he wasn’t able to be at those meetings, but I met with his chief of staff and his team. Could not be nicer people.
O’Rourke: Again, we may not see eye to eye on sending DPS to the border, but I wanted to make sure he heard our perspective from El Paso and when he came to Washington D.C. to advocate for Texas after Harvey, I was sure to meet with him there and make sure that we … all 38 of us, the two U.S. senators, the 36 members of the House delegation and Governor Abbott and we were all on the same team. We’ll work with anyone. And we have to. That’s what Texans want us to do.
O’Rourke: The hardest, hard-core yellow dog Democrat that I’ll meet at these town hall meetings, they’ll say, “Why can’t you all just work together?” Like, I’m a Democrat and I want our point of view to prevail, but for gosh sake’s please work with the other side. So we gotta do that.
Leeson: I would write … I would put down a great deal of money that says you’re going to vote for Andrew White for governor … and I say that because of your family’s relationships with the Whites and I don’t know if you’re personal friends with them, but you seem to be much more in an Andrew White mode then the others.
O’Rourke: I haven’t actually made a decision yet and I’ve met Andrew and Lupe about the same number of times. Maybe a half dozen times each. And there’s a real contrast there and I think that’s a good thing. As I think you believe, competition only improves the final product or service, and having a competition of ideas of record of service is good for that primary run-off. It’s going to be good for Ted Cruz and I and the voters of Texas, all 28 million people in Texas, in this U.S. Senate race.
O’Rourke: So I’m looking forward to the competition. I sure would love to see a debate though because, like you, although you may not be voting in the Democratic Primary, I want to make an informed decision and right now I just don’t have … beyond their ads and their press statements and meeting them in person, I just don’t have a good enough idea about what they stand for and their differences. Let’s hope that there’s a debate. Let’s have the debate in Lubbock. Hosted by Jay Leeson.
Leeson: Right here. The Other Side of Texas. Let’s do it.
Leeson: Last question here. People, smart people who don’t look at this race in a partisan way, but look at it just on the pragmatic terms will say you cannot, Beto O’Rourke cannot win that campaign, because there is no Democratic infrastructure in Texas. There is an opposition party in Texas and it’s called the Federal courts. That no other opposition party of which to speak. That to say I’ve heard people refer to you as a 2018 JFK in the Democratic Party. That you’re engaging people who were not engaged otherwise. You’ve got people who will likely vote for you and not tell anybody that they voted for you.
Leeson: On those terms, and I’m going to compliment you and critique you at the same time. You seem to be more of a Goldwater figure to me. That if you lost badly in this race, you will have certainly set forward an infrastructure that could bring forward Reagans. Even though I’m speaking in GOP terms…
Leeson: I’m trying to parallel it to a Democratic party in Texas. Do you think you’re a Goldwater here?
O’Rourke: No, you know what? I don’t have the ideological purity of a Goldwater…
Leeson: Within the race’s terms?
Leeson: Could you create a Goldwater effect in Texas politics?
O’Rourke: Here’s an open-ended question that I think a lot of people are asking. If you saw the 36-year high water mark for Democratic primary mid-term Senate turnout, but you saw the all-time high water mark for Republican mid-term primary Senate turnout … 1.5 million votes on March 6 for Republican candidates. Only a million for the Democratic candidates. As high a water mark as that is, is there any way that Beto can run or is he just setting the stage for something down the road, to your question.
O’Rourke: But I wonder, and you’ll know and we should be able to do research. When John Tower was running, I’m confident that if you added up all of the Democratic primary votes they far exceeded the Republican primary votes because in most of the counties of Texas, you were going to select your justice of the peace, your county commissioner, your county judge, you were going to vote in the Democratic primary. You were left free, however, in November to vote for the Republican state-wide candidate. I wonder if that is not the same thing going on now. Because anecdotally and that’s all I’ve got …. when we were in Randall and Potter or Ector Counties, when we’re up in Paris or Cooper, we are hearing from people who say I voted in the Republican primary for those reasons.
O’Rourke: However, I will be voting for you come November because of your work on the V.A. the fact that you and Jodey Arrington had a bipartisan field hearing in Lubbock, Texas. Who the hell brings the federal government to Lubbock, Texas to listen to the people of Lubbock, Texas shake federal policy? You two guys were able to do it. So I think there’s a real opportunity for us. As we should in a democracy, compete for everyone’s vote. Not just Democrats. And I concede your point. We won’t do this with just Democrats. It’s got to be Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, and if there were ever a year to do it, it is this one.
O’Rourke: If there were ever a state to make it happen, I think it’s Texas.
Leeson: Beto O’Rourke, you gonna be back with us?
O’Rourke: I hope so. Would love to. If you’ll have me back.
Leeson: All right. Thank you for the time.
O’Rourke: Yeah, grateful.