Beto O’Rourke is back on the road in Texas for a 22-stop (and counting) tour around the state called “Drive for Democracy.” And though these stops are meant to raise awareness around the latest Republican voter suppression efforts, for many it’s starting to feel like the Powered by People tour is perhaps a preview of something to come, like a race for governor.
At his stop in south Dallas at Paul Quinn College on Tuesday evening, the very first question O’Rourke fielded from the crowd was indeed about running for governor. He sidestepped the question, noting that this current tour is focused on voting rights and democracy.
O’Rourke’s main message to the crowd that was gathered on one of the college’s basketball courts was about the dire state of democracy, and the threat of voter suppression laws like Senate Bill 7. He also introduced the crowd to several Texas House Democrats that were a part of the walkout that derailed SB 7.
Rep. Toni Rose, a graduate of Paul Quinn College who represents House District 110 where the event was located, talked about the strategy that went into planning the walkout. Democrats were facing possible action by law enforcement, but still they worked to execute a plan to leave the Capitol. “[Republicans] might outnumber us, but we have the wisdom on our side.” Rose then implored attendees at the rally to find more people around them to register to vote to change the makeup of the Texas House caucus.
Rep. Jessica González, who is the vice-chair of the House Elections Committee, also spoke at Paul Quinn. She echoed Rose’s sentiments about registering more voters and educating them about the issues in Texas that impact their daily lives. González also had a message for the rest of the country about what Texas Democrats need now. “Our call is on Congress and the White House to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” said González.
Before he took the stage in Dallas, O’Rourke registered as a volunteer deputy registrar in Dallas County. He even used that new ability to register a voter named Esperanza. According to O’Rourke, that name (which means “Hope” in Spanish) is a harbinger about what’s possible in Texas.
On Wednesday afternoon, O’Rourke arrived for his next stop in Waxahachie. He was introduced by Jana Lynne Sanchez, a former congressional candidate and a Powered by People ambassador.
Speaking with Texas Signal, Sanchez said that the very fact that O’Rourke was visiting Waxahachie, which has a population just under 40,000, spoke volumes. While she also conceded there was a lot of interest in him as a candidate for governor, his priorities were ensuring democracy was saved in Texas. “He was really clear about the existential threat to our democracy and the audience was very concerned,” said Sanchez.
As the tour through Texas progresses, O’Rourke is likely to field even more questions about whether or not he’s going to run for governor in 2022. At the stop in Dallas, he was essentially pre-endorsed by a number of notable figures, including U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and State Rep. Rafael Anchia.
While it’s possible, and maybe even likely, that O’Rourke runs for statewide office again, for now he’s on a mission to successfully fulfill his “Drive for Democracy” campaign. True to form, while he was in Waxahachie O’Rourke also became a volunteer deputy registrar in Ellis County and knocked on doors looking for Texans to register.
A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).