Beto O’Rourke steps 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 contrive, multi-millionaire real estate magnate William Sanders. Months after O’Rourke assembled the council, he married Amy Sanders and William Sanders became his father-in-law.
The downtown project was a private-public partnership. The private back 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 foot in the private PDNG side of the bargain and another 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 intention, but as local opposition developed he recused himself from various key referendums. Further cries of foul play pitched on him in 2012, when O’Rourke made an insurgent’s bid to depose the incumbent Congressman for El Paso, Silvestre Reyes.
A company owned by Sanders lent $40,000 to a Republican-backedSuper Pac that invested in attack ads against Reyes, contributing to O’Rourke’s underdog victory and throwing him a leg-up to Washington.
In a recent interview with the American Prospect, O’Rourke disclaimed any conflict relating to his father-in-law. Sanders” made it a rule that he religiously followed, never to talk politics”, he said.
But the Sanders connection still rankles with activists opposed to the downtown scheme such as David Romo, a preceding is part of the primary complain group Paso del Sur. He said that O’Rourke’s connections to Sanders takes the shine off his current claim that as a presidential candidate he eschews big bucks and is running a ” people’s campaign “.
Romo told the Guardian that in his view O’Rourke’s role in the redevelopment castings doubt on his 2020 candidacy.” What is true in El Paso is said that the solution to our national questions does not come from a multi-millionaire funded by billionaires who does their dictation .”
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 scheme- that he sided with gentrification despite the trauma it would inflict on poor Latino residents and historic El Paso.” He was the fairly face of ugly gentrification .”
O’Rourke is denying that he sided with gentrifiers, insisting his intention was to breathe new life into the dilapidated center of a major city. He did tell the American Prospect, though, that in hindsight he accepts that he did” a really poor job of like to hear that review “.
‘He genuinely 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 dogma, or whether it was because of his springs in Texas, a state that has been dominated by Republicans for the past 20 times, his voting record in Congress was impressing for its lack of party purity.
Although El Paso shifts overwhelmingly Democratic, a fivethirtyeight.com tracker indicates that he voted 30% of the time in line with Trump. Compare that to his presidential rivals: Kamala Harris( 17% ), Bernie Sanders( 14%) or Elizabeth Warren( 13% ).
That didn’t matter much in his senatorial hasten last November. But then he was running against Ted Cruz, one of the most toxic rightwing senators who even fellow Republicans call ” Lucifer in the flesh “.
In that hasten he proved himself to have various of the qualities that might appeal to Democratic voters looking for a presidential campaigner capable of beating Trump, first and foremost his ability to turn out the vote. He demonstrated himself adept in appealing to young person, African Americans, Latinos and suburban lily-white maidens- electoral groups 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 itinerary last year. By taking his expedition national he has moved on to much more fertile ground for a Democrat than the traditionally arid clay of Texas, yet it has come at the price of sharply intensified scrutiny.
Which fetches O’Rourke back to his climate change announcement amid the splendor of Yosemite Falls. Fossil fuel activists may have been pleasantly surprised by O’Rourke’s robust policy, 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 subscriptions above $200 from Pacs, lobbyists and executives of fossil fuel companies. The donate was particularly sensitive for O’Rourke, who according to Open Secrets abode more contributions from oil and gas in 2018 than any congressional campaigner other than Ted Cruz.
He has said his hesitancy was because of concerns for ordinary employees in service industries who should be allowed to participate. The the organisers of the pledge however stressed that exclusively the donations of top heads were excluded.
In the end, he did sign the donate, two days after his Yosemite declaration.
Another sticking point is that O’Rourke voted twice in Congress to promote 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 nations, by arguing that US crude was cleaner than that of other countries and” the petroleum that plies 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 exports, from well under 1m barrels per day to more than 3m per date currently.” There’s been a dangerous and problematic an increasing number of the distillation of crude oil driven by exportations 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 acces back into the Democratic spotlight. The Yosemite announcement made a solid start, initiating American voters to a more serious, focused politician than they had previously been shown.
Now the real scramble begins.