DALLAS - Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke says Democrats need to push harder to get more registered voters to the polls.
He made the comments at a gathering of supporters in Waxahachie on Wednesday and in an interview with FOX4’s GoodDay.
The former congressman and one-time U.S. Senate and presidential candidate is focusing his attention on voting rights, and putting off any decision about running for office again.
O’Rourke is encouraging people to call state legislators, urging them to reject the Republican-backed voting bill if it comes up in any special legislative session Gov. Greg Abbott might call. That bill would place limits on some voting hours, ban drive-thru voting and boost poll watching.
O’Rourke said those who care about democracy should stand up against what he calls "voter suppression."
He’s making visits across the state to register people to vote. He was in Dallas and DeSoto on Tuesday in addition to Wednesday’s stop in Waxahachie. Supporters want him to run for another office, like governor in 2022 against GOP incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott.
"The filing deadline in Texas for offices in 2022 is in December of this year so let’s focus this summer on voting rights and democracy and then turn our attention to winning elections in 2022," O’Rourke said.
Despite record turnout in big Democratic counties, there was no blue wave and in some places Republicans outperformed previous elections.
"2020 Democrats didn't do what they needed to do," O’Rourke said. "Not getting to where voters are and meeting them at their front doors and listening to them."
He’s focused on registering new voters and says there were seven million eligible voters in Texas who stayed at home last year.
SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson says it’s not the outreach that is Democrats’ problem in the state.
"Doing more door to door campaigning is fine and helpful, but the bigger issue for Texas Democrats is if the national Democratic party’s leftist wing is driving the message, that’s going to make it harder and harder to compete for the average Texas voter," Wilson said.
O’Rourke is also encouraging President Biden and national Democrats to pass a federal election reform law.
"We need President Biden, who has majorities in the House and the Senate, to do the same up in Washington DC.," O’Rourke said. "We have voter suppression. It won’t matter if I’m the candidate or others are the candidate, we will be up against a rigged system."
Beto on GoodDay
On GoodDay, he said the basic act of voting should be protected from the political forces of any given moment.
"Voting rights used to be an overwhelmingly bipartisan issue. The ‘65 Voting Rights Act, every time it was reauthorized Republicans and Democrats alike supported it. It’s only in this modern divisive, highly polarized era that it’s become partisan. It doesn’t have to be. And that’s why I hope Texans of all political parties will step up and ask for voting rights. One person. One vote. That used to be the American value we could all rally around. We need to get back to that," he said.
When asked about what he learned about not winning the U.S. Senate seat when he ran in 2018 or the presidential nomination he sought in 2020, O’Rourke said he feels fulfilled knowing he’s doing his best for Texas.
"Just being in this fight is the most rewarding fulfilling thing that I can possibly do. So it does not matter if I have a title or an office, whether or not I’m a candidate or leading a campaign. If I can help others, as we did during the winter storm. We raised $1.4 million for our fellow Texans, connected to those without heat and power to the help they needed. If I can help register voters and support other candidates, I’m fulfilled. I just want to do my best for Texans. So that’s what I will always try to do," he said.
O’Rourke said he’s going across the state getting certified as a volunteer deputy registrar in every county so that he can register people to vote.