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2 million Texans have registered to vote since 2016. Beto O'Rourke shares why that's important for this election

Beto O'Rourke, who challenged Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, says the Texas electorate is rapidly changing and diversifying.
Credit: WFAA
Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke endorse Joe Biden in Dallas

DALLAS — While Beto O’Rourke isn’t on the ballot this fall, you might not know it.

His name has still been all over the place as he works to make sure the Democrats who are on the ballot find success.

Even Joe Biden.

Even in a state that hasn’t gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

“It’s impossible until it happens,” O’Rourke said on Y’all-itics.

Listen to Beto's full conversation about the 2020 election, his career plans and one thing that's changed during the pandemic on this week's episode of Y'all-itics. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts:

Democrats in Texas are operating on three major fronts for the 2020 election: president, U.S. Senate and majority in the Texas House.

One of the three, O’Rourke told the Jasons, is more than wishful thinking.

“The state House is the most exciting and will be the most impactful and also happens to be the most realistic," said O'Rourke. 

Currently, Democrats are down nine seats in the state House, after picking up 12 in 2018, when O'Rourke ran against Cruz.

"But in 2018, I also happened to win more votes than did Ted Cruz in nine of those state house districts that we need to pick up this year," O'Rourke said. "So, you know, by the math not only can we do this, in some ways, we've done this before.”

Part of his enthusiasm is fueled by the fact that there are so many new voters in Texas.

“Remember, more than two million of our fellow Texans have registered to vote just since the last presidential election cycle. Two million. I mean that sounds crazy even by Texas numbers. We do everything bigger here,” the former Congressman said. “You have those net two million new voters in a state that is rapidly diversifying and changing. And this is a brand-new electorate that you’re looking at.”

O’Rourke said he’s been in touch with the Biden campaign, pleading the case for a Texas-sized investment in the state. 

And while he said he’s the last person who should be giving advice to other candidates, he did tell the Jasons that he has reached out to M.J. Hegar, the Democrat running for U.S. Senate against incumbent John Cornyn. 

O’Rourke said he told Hegar to go everywhere and not take any vote for granted. 

And while he said socially distant campaigning in the age of COVID is difficult, he and Hegar have discussed a possible silver lining.

“One of the things that M.J. told me afterwards is she said pre-COVID, pre, you know, lockdown, at her events that people would physically come to, it was the already converted. It was preaching to the choir," said O'Rourke. "When she holds these virtual town halls now, she's getting a lot of curious independents, perhaps some disaffected Republicans. In other words, she may be expanding the electorate that she can appeal to."

A strong stance on gun control

In September 2019, O’Rourke uttered his famous gun control pledge during a Democratic presidential debate when he promised he would take away weapons such as AR-15s. This came following a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, when a gunman killed 23 people at a local Walmart.

His campaign started to fizzle shortly after. 

But he told the Jasons, he has no regrets. O'Rourke said he would say it again, even though he knows it’s not a popular position, including within some quarters of the Democratic party.

“It helped me to understand that whatever was politically safe or convenient to talk about in the conversation around guns no longer applied. As long as everyday Americans can buy one of these weapons of war, each one of them is a potential instrument of terror,” he said.

O'Rourke also told the Jasons that he honestly doesn’t know if there’s a future for him in politics. 

He said he’s basically been on the road since he first ran full-time for Congress in 2011, continuing through his 2018 run for Senate and his national campaign for president.

“This, literally, is the most time I've ever spent with my wife and our three kids in our marriage, or really in our kids’ lives. And it's wonderful. And I feel so fortunate to be here with them right now," he said.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Y’all-itics interview? 

Not only has Mr. O’Rourke not eaten any Whataburger in six months… he stopped eating meat altogether.

“It may have something to do with the fact that for two years traveling Texas, I ate Whataburger 10 times a week.  So, my body's detoxing right now.”