Beto O’Rourke calls for unity at UI in string of Iowa college stops

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke ended his second Iowa tour with an Iowa City town hall in which he discussed immigration, health care, and climate change.


Katie Goodale

Beto O’Rourke addresses supporters during his event in the Second Floor Ballroom of the IMU on April 7, 2019. O’Rourke will be running for the democratic nomination for president.

Emily Wangen, Politics Reporter

Standing atop a platform in the IMU ballroom, former U.S. representative and 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke called for unity in a campaign stop at the University of Iowa campus.

During his address to an audience of about 200 at the IMU, O’Rourke called for a united front among parties in order to find solutions to large-scale problems such as immigration and climate change while laying out ideas for how he will address education debt, health care, and voting rights.

Following his prepared remarks, O’Rourke answered questions from attendees on a variety of issues including sexual assault, judicial nominations, and why voters should support him.

“We’re not going beat this challenge and overcome this challenge unless we do it together,” O’Rourke said while answering a question regarding why voters should support him from Kansas City resident Kent Duffy.

Duffy said she has not made up her mind regarding which candidate she will support, but liked his charisma and values.

“I’m looking at all the candidates,” Duffy said. “I want to meet more and talk with more.”

Cameron Chiste, a UI science-education student, also said she wants to see as many candidates as she can to be an informed voter. She added that she has seen multiple candidates who’ve made Iowa City campaign stops, but U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., currently stands out the most to her because of her background in law and stance on increasing teacher pay.

O’Rourke has kept an aggressive campaign pace in his second visit to Iowa, driving himself again in a Dodge caravan — this one maroon — to nearly two dozen stops in Iowa over the span of four days. His UI stop was among many visits to college campuses in his second Iowa swing, including Iowa State University, Grinnell College, Morningside College, and Iowa Central Community College.

“It’s where the leadership in this country is, and it’s where the energy, the action, the urgency are found on any important issue that I can think of,” O’Rourke said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

At his Iowa City stop, he called for free two-year community college and more loan-forgiveness programs.

The former Texas congressman added in an interview that while he sometimes felt the fatigue of being on the road for the past eight days, meeting voters keeps him going.

“We have been propelled by the energy and enthusiasm and also by the intensity of the Democratic process in Iowa,” O’Rourke said.

Katie Goodale
Beto O’Rourke high-fives supporters during his event in the Second Floor Ballroom of the IMU on April 7, 2019. O’Rourke will be running for the democratic nomination for president.

O’Rourke rose to prominence during the 2018 midterm elections when he narrowly lost a race for a U.S. Senate seat to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. Cruz defeated O’Rourke by 2.6 percent, or approximately 200,000 votes. It was during that race in which UI engineering student Madison Wiley learned about the El Paso native via social media.

“I don’t know anyone in Texas and for [O’Rourke’s campaign] to blow up my Twitter is kind of a big deal,” Wiley said. “I’m very excited for him to run for president.”

Wiley and Chiste agreed that the two largest issues for them are gun control and climate change. Chiste added that she would prefer a candidate who supports the Green New Deal.

During an interview with the DI, O’Rourke said he supports the Green New Deal, but noted there were details in the resolution that need to be worked out.

“I want to make sure that any label or any phrase does not prevent us from bringing in those who may be of a different political party, may live in a different part of the country …” O’Rourke said in an interview with the DI. “I want to be focused on the singular goal of saving this planet from ourselves, so whatever we call it by whatever means we achieve it.”

During his speech, he further emphasized the scientific evidence of climate change and outlined how he would address the problem through investment in renewable energy.

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“Climate change is happening right now and it’s going to become exponentially worse if we do nothing about it and allow this planet to warm yet another degree celsius,” O’Rourke said.

In a press gaggle, O’Rourke noted that on his second trip, he noticed less media coverage than his first Iowa visit.

O’Rourke previously visited The Hawkeye state back in March after announcing his bid for the presidency. For his second visit to Iowa, O’Rourke made stops in Ames, Carrol, Denison, Sioux City, Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Grinnell, and Des Moines.