U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke never uttered his name.
But as he spoke for more than 20 minutes Friday night to thousands of Democrats gathered in Fort Worth for their state convention, he laid out the case for party members to elect him in November to replace Republican Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate.
He said he wants to fight for those who need it most — from the migrant children taken from their parents at the state’s border to cotton farmers, veterans and teachers.
“I want to make sure that no one, absolutely no one, is taken for granted,” the El Paso Democrat said. “I want to make sure we are talking about everyone everywhere every day ... (and) that we are showing up.”
The former punk rocker is trying to become the first Democrat elected to a statewide office in Texas since 1994.
His speech was the highlight Friday at the Democrats’ convention, a time geared to revitalize the party for the midterm election.
He touched briefly on his opposition to sending public money to private schools for vouchers and his support for women making their own decisions about their own bodies “without our government getting in the way.”
He talked about Texans needing to support veterans with everything from health care to education, beef up background checks, stop selling “weapons of war,” fight tariffs that could impact farmers and ensure that transgender and gay Texans don’t worry about losing their jobs because of their sexuality.
“When we show up everywhere, that’s how we win. And that’s how we make sure everyone is represented and no one feels written off.”
Many delegates wore “Beto” T-shirts, or “Beto than Cruz” buttons. Whenever O’Rourke’s name was mentioned through the day, delegates gave their largest cheers of the day.
When O’Rourke finally took to the stage Friday night, the crowd of thousands gave him a resounding standing ovation.
“We love you,” one delegate yelled once the crowd quieted own.
“Not as much as I love you,” O’Rourke replied.
In November, O’Rourke faces Cruz for the U.S. Senate seat.
He has traveled across the state, visiting all 254 counties, to meet voters and has outraised Cruz in recent fundraising cycles.
Both O’Rourke and Cruz have talked about the importance of Tarrant County — the largest urban area in Texas that remains reliably Republican — in the November election.
They, and others, call this area a bellwether for the entire state.
“We have to win Tarrant County to win (Texas),” O’Rourke has said. “As Tarrant County goes, so goes the state.”
O’Rourke tipped his hat to many areas of the state Friday night, including Tarrant County.
“Let’s hear it for Tarrant County,” he said. “This does not happen without you. We need you.”
Cruz, a former presidential candidate whose strongholds have long included the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, has long appealed to Republicans and others looking for anti-establishment candidates here in what some call the Tea Party hotbed of Tarrant, Dallas and Denton counties.
Looking toward November
Cruz last week told Republicans they must stand firm and turn out to vote in November.
“The hard left is angry,” Cruz said during the GOP convention in San Antonio. “They’re energized. They hate the president, and they’re coming for Texas.”
That’s why Cruz said Republicans need to work together.
“We need conservatives, we need moderates, we need libertarians, we need anybody who values freedom,” he said. “This election is all about turnout. If conservatives show up in Texas, we will keep Texas bright red.”
O’Rourke talked about how he has traveled to every corner of the state to meet with potential voters, even going into Republican-dominated areas.
“They are every bit as deserving of being heard,” he said. “So we are going to show up.”
He asked the cheering crowd if they want to win the November election.
“I am with you, and I am so grateful, lucky and fortunate,” O’Rourke said “Let’s do it.”