Beto O'Rourke

Congressman Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso speaking to a group of constituents in the Ben E. Keith Community Room on Tuesday.

Congressman Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, stopped in Palestine on Tuesday, part of a 34 day-campaign trek around the state in a bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

The congressman has announced plans to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

“There is so much more a Senator can do on a national level for change,” O'Rourke told the Herald-Press. “They have so much more power. I could either just focus on El Paso, or I could run for Senate make real changes that would better the lives of all Texans.”

O'Rourke, a former business owner, is a fourth generation Texan. He and his wife, Amy, have three children.

He has been crisscrossing the state, aggressively making campaign stops.

“This is the only way I know to do a campaign: get out and listen and meet people where they are,” said O'Rourke.

Among the top issues facing the nation, O'Rourke said, are educational funding, veterans' benefits, Medicaid coverage, and healthcare.

He said both parties will make progress by working together for the greater good. “I believe that is what Americans want to see more of.”

O'Rourke said he's a strong proponent of working across the aisle and having a Republican co-sponsor on bills. He said Texans will see more Republicans and Democrats sitting across the table from one-another, seeking common ground on an improved national healthcare system.

With Kennedy-esque features and eloquent charm, the young Irish-Texan is flattered by comparisons to former President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert, calling them his life-long heroes. He said he's proud to work with Robert's grandson, Joe Kennedy III.

The politician is open about his past, including a 1995 arrest for burglary and a 1998 DUI charge. Neither resulted in convictions.

“Some 20 years ago, I was charged with driving under the influence and, during my college years, I jumped a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso which resulted in a burglary charge,” O'Rourke said. “I was not convicted of either.

“Both incidents were due to poor judgement and I have no excuse for my behavior then. However, since then, I have used my opportunities to serve my community and my state. I'm grateful for the second chance and believe that we all deserve second chances.”

On Tuesday, he made stops in Longview, Tyler, Palestine, and Nacogdoches.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to spend time in East Texas and be welcomed by the communities I visit,'' said O'Rourke. “This is my second visit here. I'll be back as the campaign continues.”

On Wednesday, he will continue with East Texas stops in Lufkin and Beaumont.

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