Sunday, March 24, 2019 | 2:29 p.m.
Framed by large photos of Mexican food, Beto O’Rourke stood tall in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-2 Democratic presidential candidate was atop a riser, fielding questions from the crowd that filled the small restaurant to capacity on Sunday.
It was his first visit to Nevada in the 2020 campaign cycle, which has brought an influx of candidates to Las Vegas seeking to cement their status in a swing state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by less than 4 percent.
O’Rourke has only been in the race for 10 days, coming to Nevada fresh off of stops in Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Iowa.
His first stop Sunday was at Taqueria Arandas, a small restaurant which quickly filled with supporters packing the patio and the immediate outside vicinity. He opened his remarks to the crowd in Spanish.
He spoke about the status of DACA recipients, saying that Dreamers, as they are commonly called, must be free to live without the threat of deportation hanging over their heads.
“Let’s acknowledge that this country’ success, the foundations for our strength (and) our safety day in and day out is premised of the genius of incorporating the lives of people from the planet over here in communities like Las Vegas, here in communities like throughout Nevada and here in the United States,” O’Rourke said.
His platform also included gerrymandering solutions, a new Voting Rights Act and movement toward alleviating economic inequality.
“As we have concentrated the power of corporations and the wealthy in this country, we have slowed the dynamism of the U.S. economy, and small business growth and formation in the first place,” he said.
O’Rourke, whose hometown of El Paso sits on the border with Mexico, spoke forcefully about the issue of family separation, a policy which separated children from their parents at the border. Despite an order to stop the process, it is still ongoing in a diminished sense, according to a recently released court filing.
“Though we would like to lay the blame for this at the feet of the president, and he deserves much of it, in a democracy where the people are the government and the government is the people, for as long as these conditions persist, for as long as those kids remain separated from their parents, it is on every single one of us,” O’Rourke said.
The first question came from a fourth grader who asked how O’Rourke would help make schools safer. O’Rourke told a short story about his son Henry, and criticized making teachers prepare for the events. He said he would implement universal background checks and said the country should keep “weapons of war” in the battlefield — he has advocated for banning assault weapons in the past.
“We now ask that teacher, Henry told us, to gather his fellow with him into a closet to enact an active shooter drill to prepare them for what many feel is the inevitable in a country that loses 30,000 of our fellow Americans, including our littlest Americans, every year to preventable gun violence,” he said. “I say preventable because either this is our lot in life and our fate (and) there’s something inherently violent and evil about being an American, or this is a human-caused problem with a human solution.”
Las Vegan Richard Carreon said he has followed O’Rourke for years. When he was stationed in El Paso, he also served as the president of Better Opportunities for Single Parents, an organization dedicated to helping single military parents.
He said he spoke to O’Rourke multiple times about the program, and appreciated the way the conversations went.
“It was almost like we established a working relationship right off the bat,” Carreon said.
Carreon has been in Vegas for five years, but said he remembers a remark he once made walking out of O’Rourke’s office.
“I said if you ever run for president, you’ve got my support,” he said.