Beto O'Rourke

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Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Silvestre Reyes
El Paso City Councilman from the 8th District
In office
June 1, 2005 – June 27, 2011[1]
Preceded by Anthony Cobos
Succeeded by Cortney Niland
Personal details
Born Robert Francis O'Rourke
(1972-09-26) September 26, 1972 (age 43)
El Paso, Texas, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Amy Hoover Sanders
Children 3
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Businessman, Musician
Religion Roman Catholic
Website Representative Beto O'Rourke

Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (born September 26, 1972) is an American politician and the U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district. He was elected in November 2012, having defeated incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary, and Republican Barbara Carrasco in the general election.[2][3] The district includes most of El Paso County. Prior to his election to Congress, O'Rourke was the District 8 representative on the El Paso City Council from June 2005 to June 2011. He adopted the nickname of "Beto" (from Spanish "Roberto") to identify with his hometown district's Latino-majority population.[4]

Early life, education, and music career[edit]

O'Rourke is a fourth-generation Irish American El Paso native.[citation needed] His father is former El Paso County Judge Pat O'Rourke. He attended Carlos Rivera and Mesita Elementary Schools and El Paso High School. In the early 1990s, Beto was a singer and guitarist in the band Foss. Foss included Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocalist for At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta) on vocals and drums, Arlo Klahr on vocals and guitar, and Mike Stevens on vocals and guitar. They released a self-titled demo and a 7" record, "The El Paso Pussycats", on Western Breed Records in 1993. They released a subsequent album, "Fewel St." in 1994, also on Western. Foss toured the U.S. and Canada in the summer of 1993 and again, along with Bixler's concurrent band, Los Dregtones, in the summer of 1994. In 1995, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature from Columbia University in New York City.[5] He was arrested in 1995 on burglary charges, and in 1998 on drunken driving charges.[6][7]

Business career (1995-2005)[edit]

O'Rourke spent three years working at Internet start-ups in New York City before his return to El Paso in 1998.[8]

El Paso City Council (2005-2011)[edit]


In mid-2005, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council, and defeated two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos, 57%-43%.[9][10]

O'Rourke is one of the youngest representatives to have ever served on the City Council.[11] In 2007, he won re-election to a second term defeating Trini Acevedo, 70%-30%.[12][13]



In August 2005, a resolution was drafted by O'Rourke and fellow council member Steve Ortega, calling on city officials to discourage the anti-illegal immigrant Minutemen from patrolling the local stretch of the Texas-Mexico border and "reject civilian attempts to enforce immigration law." The Minutemen's spokesman Shannon McGauley said his group planned to go ahead with October operations in El Paso, despite the resolution.[citation needed]


In 2006 there was a failed attempt to recall O'Rourke over an El Paso Downtown Redevelopment plan. South Side activist Carmen Felix initiated a recall petition drive against him on May 3, 2006. Despite the threat of recall, O'Rourke continued to strongly advocate the use of eminent domain in conjunction with the plan to redevelop downtown El Paso. At the El Paso city council meeting held on July 9, 2006, still under threat of recall, he showed a distinct change in tone toward the El Paso Downtown Revitalization Plan. He responded to a question posed by fellow city councilman Lozano as to whether residents displaced by new construction "could come back to the area", responding in assurance that the city would make "every effort" to ensure displaced residents were allowed to remain in their same neighborhoods.[citation needed]

Ethics complaint[edit]

On September 5, 2006, lawyers for the Land Grab Opponents of El Paso filed an ethics complaint with the City of El Paso alleging O'Rourke "violated his fiduciary duty to the citizens of El Paso."[14] According to the complaint, O'Rourke stands to benefit from his relationship with the Paso del Norte Group because his firm does business with the group, stating "O'Rourke is impermissibly entangled in the Paso del Norte Group's Downtown Revitalization Plan, through both family and business ties."[14]

The complaint alleged that O'Rourke's company, Stanton Street Technology Group, provides Internet and Information Technology services to the Paso del Norte Group. Despite these ties, O'Rourke voted to extend the group's contract with the city last year and to accept the group's redevelopment proposal in March, according to the complaint. The city's Ethics Review Commission summarily dismissed the first complaint on October 12, 2006. The second complaint was dismissed on October 18, 2006. The Land Grab Opponents' lawyer stated that his intent in filing the ethics complaints was to make O'Rourke recuse himself from debating and voting on the Downtown plan because O'Rourke's father-in-law, William Sanders, is a leader in the Paso del Norte Group[15] which advanced the plan. The Land Grab Opponents' lawyer cited the business relationship between Paso del Norte Group and O'Rourke's Stanton Street Technologies. In the second ethics complaint, the lawyer pointed to evidence he said suggests that the CFO of Sanders' company, The Verde Group, prepared O'Rourke's income tax return this year. O'Rourke abstained at from the meeting on the establishment of a Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.[citation needed]

War on drugs[edit]

In January 2009, O'Rourke sponsored a resolution asking the federal government to rethink the War on Drugs and initiate an "open and honest debate" about ending the prohibition of illegal drugs. The resolution, which was unanimously supported by his colleagues on the El Paso City Council was vetoed by then-Mayor John Cook, and spurred a larger national discussion on the topic. He told reporters that the reason he decided to speak up about what he called the failed war on drugs was the thousands of people who have been killed in the drug war in the adjoining city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. "I hope it has all had its intended affect of starting the national discussion of the wisdom of the war on drugs … and probably more importantly, helping to bring about a better solution than the status quo, which has led to the terror and tragedy in Juarez."[16]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In 2012, Beto ran against eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes for Texas' 16th congressional district in the Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, majority-Latino district. O'Rourke took 50.5 percent of the vote, just a few hundred votes above the threshold required to avoid a runoff against incumbent Congressman Reyes.[17] He was contrasted with former Congressman Reyes in his support for LGBT rights[18] and drug liberalization.[19] He defeated his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, in the general election with 65 percent of the vote.


He won re-election in 2014 with 67% of the vote.


He is seeking re-election to a third term in 2016.[20]

Committee assignments[edit]


Beto's first sponsored bill was introduced on April 8, 2013. The bill was H.R. 1265, which required the continuation of tuition assistance programs for members of the Armed Forces for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. This bill was not passed into law.[citation needed]

H.R. 2036 was introduced by O'Rourke on June 6 of the same year. H.R. 2036, also known as the Foster Children Opportunity Act, would require state plans for foster care and adoption assistance to have procedures to assist alien children in the child welfare system achieve special immigrant juvenile status and create a process for those children to become U.S. citizens by the time they exited foster care. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition, where it is awaiting a vote.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

O'Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders, the daughter of William and Louann Sanders of El Paso, on September 24, 2005 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Beto and Amy O'Rourke have three children.[5]


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Silvestre Reyes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th congressional district

January 3, 2013-Present
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Patrick Murphy
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Scott Perry