Beto O’Rourke goes with his wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, and his three children, Ulysses, Henry and Molly in El Paso on 6 November 2018. Photograph: Paul Ratje/ AFP/ Getty Images
His involvement became problematic for two main reasons. The first was his family ties to the mastermind behind the strategy, multi-millionaire real estate magnate William Sanders. Months after O’Rourke met the council, he married Amy Sanders and William Sanders became his father-in-law.
The downtown project was a private-public partnership. The private side involved a civic organization called the Paso del Norte Group, PDNG, which Sanders set up with some of his super-wealthy friends from El Paso.
Controversy erupted when it emerged that O’Rourke was also a member. Did his position, with one hoof in the private PDNG side of the spate and the other on the public council side, amount to a conflict of interest? He was slapped with an moralities complaint, later dismissed.
O’Rourke initially voted in the council to go ahead with the developing project, but as local defiance germinated he recused himself from various key polls. Further cries of foul play sunk on him in 2012, when O’Rourke made an insurgent’s bid to oust the incumbent Congressman for El Paso, Silvestre Reyes.
A company owned by Sanders contributed $40,000 to a Republican-backedSuper Pac that invested in attack ads against Reyes, contributing to O’Rourke’s underdog victory and giving him a leg-up to Washington.
In a recent interrogation with the American Prospect, O’Rourke disclaimed any conflict relating to his father-in-law. Sanders” manufactured it a rule that he religiously followed, never to talk politics”, he said.
But the Sanders connection still irritates with activists opposed to the downtown scheme such as David Romo, a resulting is part of the main objection group Paso del Sur. He said that O’Rourke’s connections to Sanders takes the radiance off his current claim that as a presidential candidate he eschews big bucks and is running a ” people’s expedition “.
Romo told the Guardian that in his view O’Rourke’s role in the redevelopment casts doubt on his 2020 candidacy.” What have taken place in El Paso tells me that the solution to our national questions does not come from a multi-millionaire funded by billionaires who does their dictate .”
Romo is a celebrated historian of El Paso’s revolutionary past and as such is an articulate exponent of the second criticism leveled at O’Rourke over the redevelopment strategy- that he surfaced with gentrification despite the harm it would inflict on poor Latino residents and historic El Paso.” He was the quite face of ugly gentrification .”
O’Rourke is denying that he surfaced with gentrifiers, contending his intention was to breathe new life into the dilapidated mettle of a major metropoli. He did tell the American Prospect, though, that in hindsight he is of the view that he did” a really poor errand of listening to that review “.
‘He certainly does need to answer questions’
Similar controversy followed O’Rourke to Washington. Whether it originated from his innate pragmatism as a politician who tends to decide each problem as it comes rather than following ideology, or whether it was because of his beginnings in Texas, a state that has been dominated by Republicans for the past 20 times, his voting record in Congress was impressing for the current lack of defendant purity.
Although El Paso strays overwhelmingly Democratic, a fivethirtyeight.com tracker shows that he voted 30% of the time in line with Trump. Compare that to his presidential contenders: Kamala Harris( 17% ), Bernie Sanders( 14%) or Elizabeth Warren( 13% ).
That didn’t matter much in his senatorial race last-place November. But then he was running against Ted Cruz, one of the most toxic rightwing senators who even fellow Republicans announce ” Lucifer in the flesh “.
In that hasten he proved himself to have several of the qualities that might appeal to Democratic voters looking for a presidential nominee capable of beating Trump, first and foremost his ability to turn out the vote. He established himself adept in plead to young people, African Americans, Latinos and suburban white-hot ladies- electoral radicals all likely to play a crucial role in 2020 in deciding Trump’s fate.
But the road to the presidential nomination is proving to be a stonier path for O’Rourke than his direction last year. By taking his safarus national he has moved on to much more fertile ground for a Democrat than the traditionally arid soil of Texas, yet it has come at the price of crisply intensified scrutiny.
Which draws O’Rourke back to his climate change announcement amid the splendour of Yosemite Falls. Fossil fuel activists may only be agreeably surprised by O’Rourke’s robust program, but that doesn’t mean they have forgotten that his relationship with the oil industry has been complicated.
He paused for weeks before agreeing to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge in which candidates forego all gifts above $200 from Pacs, lobbyists and executives of fossil fuel companies. The assurance was particularly sensitive for O’Rourke, who according to Open Secret admitted more contributions from oil and gas in 2018 than any congressional candidate other than Ted Cruz.
He has said his hesitancy was because of concerns for everyday employees in service industries who should be allowed to participate. The the organisers of the pledge nonetheless was also emphasized that only the donations of top boss were excluded.
In the end, he did sign the assurance, two days after his Yosemite declaration.
Another sticking point is that O’Rourke voted twice in Congress to hoist a 40 -year ban on US exports of crude oil. He tried to justify the voting rights in October 2015, two months before the Paris Agreement on combating climate change was adopted by 195 commonwealths, by arguing that US crude was cleaner than that of other nations and” the lubricant that gives the current dominant mode of transportation will have to come from somewhere “.
The lifting of the ban has led to a massive spike in US crude exportations, from well under 1m barrels a day to more than 3m per daytime currently.” There’s been a dangerous and problematic an increasing number of the distillation of crude oil driven by exports in the US. He certainly does need to answer questions about that referendum ,” David Turnbull of Oil Change US said.
It all points to the steep uphill climb that Beto O’Rourke faces if he is to claw his behavior back into the Democratic spotlight. The Yosemite announcement made a solid start, innovating American voters to a more serious, focused politician than they had previously been shown.
Now the real scramble begins.