CLINTON — Gateway-area voters have been treated to visits from several Democratic presidential candidate hopefuls early on in the 2020 election cycle, with the latest being former Texas Congressman Beto O' Rourke on Monday morning.
Roughly 100 potential constituents packed a Gateway Area Community Center classroom to hear O' Rourke speak on his self-admittedly progressive platform ahead of the 2020 primary and General Election season. O' Rourke is one of nearly 30 candidates to formally throw his or her hat in the ring before Iowa voters hit the caucuses on Monday, Feb. 3.
The candidate Monday morning led off by stressing his stance on what has been called a "border crisis" on America's southern connection with Mexico, as men, women, and children from Central and South America attempt to cross into the United States – many being met with backlash or reportedly inhumane treatment.
"(America) started this experience with the premise that we're not going to define ourselves in this country by our race, or by our ethnicity, or by whom we're related to or common ancestry," O' Rourke told those in the audience. "Instead, we decided at the offset that we're all created equal, to equal opportunity...at this moment, this idea is being undermined, openly questioned, and in fact in some parts of our country including the very highest offices in the land, we are turning our backs on this idea."
Aligning himself with other progressive candidates on the campaign trail ahead of 2020, O' Rourke highlighted his intent to tackle gun violence, which has become seemingly more frequent throughout the country, by endorsing universal background checks for potential firearm owners, along with backing universal healthcare and supporting women's health initiatives.
The former Texas congressman is also placing emphasis on voters' rights in America, particularly identifying his plan to offer "same-day" voter registration and more expanded voting rights for certain convicted felons who are eventually released from prison. Those such as non-violent drug offenders come to mind for O' Rourke, especially minority offenders whom he and others have felt are unfairly targeted over white offenders.
Voters are the ones who ultimately determine an election in America, O' Rourke acknowledged, and any time a potential vote is infringed upon, the country's founding values are compromised – a sentiment that received applause from those in attendance Monday morning.
Without naming President Donald Trump, O' Rourke took a jab at the 2016 General Election winner and an election result that has been called into question by some of the nation's top political voices.
"When we seek to investigate, to find out just what happened, to learn the facts and the truth, and pursue accountability and justice as far as it reaches and as high up as it goes, and you obstruct that investigation and prevent us from being able to save this very democracy and protect the sanctity of the ballot box...we begin to lose what has set us apart and distinguished us from the world," O' Rourke said.