Beto O’Rourke, a skateboarding former punk rocker feted as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars, announced Thursday he is running for president — joining a crowded field of candidates vying to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
“The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all and to give it for all of us,” O’Rourke, 46, said in a video, filmed alongside his wife in their El Paso, Texas home.
O’Rourke has been discussed as a potential candidate since dazzling the grassroots during an unexpectedly tight race last year to unseat Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, his charismatic stump performances and message of inclusion turning heads in Washington.
He vowed to run a positive campaign that would seek to “bring out the very best from every single one of us” and divide a country riven by political, social and cultural divisions.
“You can probably tell that I want to run,” he told Vanity Fair in this month’s cover story, featuring a photography spread by Annie Leibovitz.
In the article, published online hours before his announcement, O’Rourke acknowledged his ambition for the top job but stopped short of confirming his run.
“Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment,” he said.
O’Rourke now enters a pool of 14 other Democrats seeking to oust Trump.
They include several US senators — Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and the leader among current candidates, liberal powerhouse Bernie Sanders.
The last main piece of the 2020 election puzzle on the Democrats’ side is former vice president Joe Biden, who has said he will reveal his political plans soon.
O’Rourke, a bassist in the moderately successful El Paso band Foss wo became known for going skateboarding to blow off steam on the Texas campaign trail, has been tipped to quickly achieve rockstar status.
But that will come with intensifying scrutiny from the media, Democratic power brokers and donors, as well as voters.
As a congressman, O’Rourke was more politically cautious, joining the House’s centrist, pro-business New Democrat Coalition.
But in his Senate run, he ran an unconventional campaign, espousing progressive positions on immigration and health care, while traveling to every county in strongly Republican Texas in a bid to heal political divisions.
Thursday’s announcement made another mention of such stances — and included promises to prioritize criminal justice reform and tackle climate change.
On immigration — one of the most divisive issues of Trump’s presidency — O’Rourke called for legal paths for immigrants “to work, to be with family and to flee persecution.”
His native El Paso, which borders Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, was recently visited by the president for a rally filled with dire warnings about Mexican criminals and calls for bigger and longer border walls.
“All of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem it’s the best possible problem for this country to have,” O’Rourke insisted.
O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign was time-consuming and he signaled that he felt disconnected from family as a result.
“My family hasn’t seen me,” he told Oprah Winfrey in February. “I haven’t been there for them.”
His disappointment about his narrow defeat was clear when he embarked on a low-key road trip and blogged about the experience, writing on January 16 that he has been “in and out of a funk.”
But it also showed a candidate appearing to enjoy himself.
He could be seen skateboarding between events. He jammed onstage with country music legend Willie Nelson, and pledged to “listen to everyone, regardless of the differences.”
In a new documentary on his improbable Senate campaign, “Running with Beto,” the rising star offered sage advice for candidates like himself: “Run like there’s nothing to lose.”