Beto O’Rourke, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other speakers called for an end to the political divisiveness they say is rampant in the U.S. at a Democratic “Get Out the Vote” rally Saturday in Fort Worth.
Jackson spoke at about 4 p.m. at the Forest Hill Civic Convention Center, where people were voting throughout the day.
Jackson addressed the fatal shooting of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, saying “seeds of violence are being sown, and they’re blowing everywhere.”
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“This morning in Pittsburgh, 11 Jewish citizens were killed,” he said. “A massacre in the synagogue. Last week, we were on alert because bombs were being spread across the country. Violence is raining down upon us. Rain comes from the top.”
Jackson also addressed ICE detention centers and the migrant caravan in Mexico.
“We cannot stand idly by and watch babies suffer in cages in Texas. Or let the military stop refugees escaping for freedom in South and Central Latin America,” he said. “Beware how you treat babies at the border. Jesus was a border baby. Jesus was a giver and became a refugee. We must care about the babies in cages.”
Finally, Jackson encouraged people to vote for Beto.
O’Rourke spoke at about 5 p.m. in front of the crowd, which cheered and took photos with him as he stepped out of his car.
O’Rourke began his speech by saying that four years ago, at this point in the last midterm election, Tarrant County had 88,000 votes. This year, he said, 220,000 votes have already been cast.
“At this moment of such division and polarization in this country, at the moment when the United States of America needs every single one of us to pull together, to find that common ground, to seek that common cause so we can do that common good — all that hope that we feel, all that inspiration that we are providing to one another, you right now are turning into action and into votes at the ballot box,” he said.
O’Rourke also addressed increased access to healthcare, legalization of marijuana, the need for affordable mental health care and racism within the prison system.
“We on the 6th of November are going to celebrate a victory for this state and this country and this generation and for the generations that follow,” he said as the crowd cheered.
In an interview after his speech, Congressman Marc Veasey of Texas’s 33rd congressional district directly addressed the effect of Trump’s rhetoric on the U.S. and the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“It would be very helpful if the President of the United States would not participate in that, not talk about body slamming people and asking people to be roughed up and calling people names and if he could lead by example,” he said. “I think there is no question that his rhetoric has caused a lot of division in this country. I think that he purposefully does it. . . . I think he finds political value in that sort of divisiveness. But he’s the leader of the United States and he needs to stop.”
Veasey said his prayers go out to the synagogue in Pittsburgh, where Robert Bowers was arrested shortly after the shooting and reportedly made anti-Jewish comments after he was apprehended, CNN reported.
“I thought that was absolutely terrible,” he said. “Again, the fact that he quoted a lot of things that he had seen from the campaign is not good, and we all just need to try and get along better.”
Local candidates focused on public education and healthcare as they urged people to vote Saturday.
Beverly Powell said Saturday especially should remind voters why midterms are so important, a reference to the fatal shooting in Pittsburgh earlier Saturday.
“We have great things we need to get done in the state of Texas and all over our nation. Important things like educating our children, to making sure that folks have access to healthcare, making sure we take care of our elderly,” Powell said. “I’m hopeful that when we get to November 7th, we’ll have new leaders at the state level and at the national level.”
Ryan Ray, the Democratic candidate for District 96’s House of Representatives seat, said he is running primarily for public education.
“This is the most important midterm certainly in my lifetime,” he said. “Our state is going in the wrong direction when it comes to funding education. We’re just going backwards. And this is one of the most pivotal elections we’ve ever had.”
Ray encouraged young and middle-aged people to vote, saying so far, 70 percent of voters across the state have been over 55 years old.
“With everything going on, if people aren’t motivated to vote now, when will they be?” he said.
Carla Morton is running for the State Board of Education and said teaching children to think for themselves can guarantee a better electorate down the road.
“One of the most important things to me is to make sure our kids are getting a science-based education,” she said. “I want to make sure that what we teach kids is based on actual empirical data.”
Nancy Bean, who is running for Texas House District 93, said she also thinks these midterms are a crucial moment for Texas.
“I think people are waking up to the importance of their vote. I think people out of fear and out of self-defense are realizing they can’t rely on other people to make the decisions for their family, their community and their children. And they have to get out and vote themselves.”
She is also focusing on education in her campaign.
“One of the big things that I want to fight for in Austin is fully funded, quality public education, and that includes Pre-K because that’s where we get the most bang for our buck.”