DENTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – After running for U.S. Senate and President, former Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke of El Paso told supporters his latest campaign is all about fighting back against Texas Republicans’ efforts to pass an elections integrity bill. “I believe we may just have a shot at saving our democracy.”
At a Denton park Monday night, June 7, organizers said more than 850 people showed up.READ MORE: A New Giraffe With A New Name To Boot, 'Lucchese' On Display At Fort Worth Zoo
When asked why this issue was important to him, O’Rourke said, “Democracy is under attack in Texas and across the country. You have the most restrictive voter suppression bill here in our state.”
Supporters expressed concerns about provisions in the most recent measure that could be in a bill during a special session of the legislature:
Whether expanded rights for poll-watchers will lead to intimidation of voters and employees, and whether early voting on Sundays won’t be able to start until 1pm.
O’Rourke said, “It is disproportionately used by African-American voters. Some people refer to it as souls to the polls. That is singularly targeted at one group in Texas: black voters.”
Republicans, including Governor Abbott and Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan, said last week the 1:00 p.m. provision was a clerical mistake, and that it should have been 11:00 a.m.
O’Rourke’s appearance in Denton makes it clear he knows how to attract a crowd, not only of his supporters, but of his opponents too.
At one point, a supporter of former President Donald Trump stood up and yelled at O’Rourke.
Trump supporters also made their presence known during a parade of vehicles and a counter-rally by blaring sirens and honking their horns.
O’Rourke told the crowd, “It’s a reminder to all of us that this is not going to be easy.”READ MORE: 1 Dead, 2 Critically Injured After Vehicle Crashes Through Guardrail At Texas Race Track
When asked for his response, O’Rourke said, “Those Trump supporters who came out and tried to shout us down today, who came out with sirens and horns blaring to try to drown out the conversation we were having here, are very emblematic of the effort to suppress the vote, to intimidate voters.”
What Democrats and others want to know is if O’Rourke will run for Governor next year.
He said he wants to fight through the voting rights issue first. “After that, if there is some other way in which I can serve, running for office or supporting others who run for office, I’ll do it. I’m in for the distance for Texas one way or another. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as a candidate or holding office.”
When asked why there is a reluctance by a Democrat to run for Governor, O’Rourke said, “It’s still early. The filing deadline is six months away from now. When you get into that campaign as I know from running statewide in 2018, it is a long, grueling, brutal affair. There’s 254 counties if you’re going to do it right. So I wouldn’t be surprised if people are thinking about the scope and scale of the challenge and looking at the field and making their decisions, but I’m confident that Democrats will field a strong candidate.”
Actor Matthew McConaughey is reportedly considering a run for Governor, but it’s unclear if he would run as an Independent or Democrat.
Governor Abbott is facing a primary challenge from former Republican State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas.
O’Rourke said what’s key for Texas Democrats is registering voters and talking to residents when not in an election year.
The organization he founded, Powered by People, had volunteers at the rally to register attendees to vote for the 2022 elections.
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