Politics

Campaign to draft Beto O’Rourke into presidential race gains steam in California


MOUNTAIN VIEW — When two dozen young people crowded into a Google employee’s living room last weekend for one of Silicon Valley’s first events of the 2020 presidential race, they were greeted by freshly printed campaign signs, a table full of chocolate cookies and enthusiastic volunteers eager to sign them up.

The only thing missing: their candidate.

A “Draft Beto” movement is off and running in the Bay Area, even though, so far, the former Texas Congressman is not. The meet-up was part of a growing effort to lay the groundwork for a presidential bid and push Beto O’Rourke to join a crowded field of Democrats. The group has recruited a long list of political strategists in California and around the country, and begun organizing volunteers and raising money for a Beto 2020 campaign.

“The way he’s inspired young people and people who weren’t politically active is amazing,” said Dylah Ray, 30, the host of the Mountain View event and a native Texan who flew home to Dallas to volunteer for O’Rourke’s Senate campaign. “We’re here, we’re ready for him, we’re all set to go.”

O’Rourke, the 46-year-old who captured Democratic daydreams during his ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last year, has said he’ll decide whether to run for president by the end of the month.

As they wait for his decision — hanging on his every Instagram video and Medium post — Beto’s biggest fans insist he has a unique ability to connect with voters, especially millennials starved for authenticity in politics, even though his biggest step onto the national stage ended in defeat.

The former Texas congressman attracted a new wave of attention Monday as he led a march and rally in his hometown of El Paso, dueling with a Trump event at the same time. O’Rourke decried the president’s rhetoric on immigration, telling a crowd of more than 7,000 that “we are not safe because of walls, but in spite of walls.”

The folks behind Draft Beto are hoping the political drama was a preview of many similar face-offs over the next two years. Led by Democratic strategists volunteering their time, the group is holding house parties and other events around the country, and trying to raise $1 million that would go to O’Rourke’s campaign if he declares.

They’re making a special focus on the Golden State, which is expected to play an unusually important role in the 2020 Democratic race due to its relatively early spot on the primary calendar.

“You can’t come to a state like California at the last minute and expect to compete in the primary,” said Michael Soneff, a strategist in Los Angeles and the campaign’s California and Nevada director. “We’re building the infrastructure Beto will need here.”

Organizers are trying to learn from past campaigns laying the groundwork for presidential candidates before they get in the race — most recently, the “Ready for Hillary” PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. The most important takeaways, according to Adam Parkhomenko, the Clinton group’s founder: “first, do no harm, and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

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