Photo by Edward Brown

What chance does a Democratic congressman from El Paso stand against an incumbent Republican in Texas’ senatorial race? Congressman Beto O’Rourke posed the question to more than 100 supporters on Friday at Shipping and Receiving during a campaign event billed Beers with Beto.

“How do [we] hope to win in Texas?” he said. “A Democrat hasn’t won [a U.S. Senate seat] in 30 years. I feel good about things for the first time in a long time. It took the events of the last 14 months to bring out the best in Texans.”

The 45-year-old politician and one-time punk rocker is mounting a formidable campaign effort. Beto’s office recently announced it had raised $2.2 million in the first six weeks of 2018, outraising Cruz. O’Rourke maintains that his campaign does not accept contributions from PACs, corporations, or special interest groups.

More than 100 supporters gathered last Friday at Shipping and Receiving for a campaign event billed Beers with Beto.

During his hour-long speech, O’Rourke touched on several hot-button issues, using them to dispel what he said is an effort by President Trump and conservative legislators to sow fear and hatred among Americans.

“You are supposed to be afraid of Mexicans,” he said. “Trump said that he is going to build a wall to keep out the rapists and criminals who are coming to America. He wants to send people who are here legally [through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] back to dangerous countries because he wants more people who looks like those in Norway. He wants you to be afraid of Muslims.”

With regard to Trump’s request for a $33 billion border wall, O’Rourke posited a historical perspective.

“If we do this in 2018, in a year of record safety and security on our border with Mexico, what will students read 50 years from now?” he asked. “If they read that we built this wall, they will be asking themselves, ‘Who were those pendejos?’ ”

Several of his comments drew laughs and jeers. The room hushed when the topic turned toward gun violence.

“I feel good about things for the first time in a long time. It took the events of the last 14 months to bring out the best in Texans.”

“The first thing that so many people in positions of power ask us is to not politicize mass shootings,” he said, adding that he was for “universal background checks for everyone. No gun show loopholes. I think that makes a lot of sense. The Centers for Disease Control, the folks who helped us understand that tobacco is [harmful], is precluded by federal law from studying gun violence. This is fucked up.”

Toward the end of his speech, the congressman touched on marijuana, which he said should be decriminalized while kept out of the hands of minors. In the short term for DACA, he said things are looking “worse and worse” for so-called Dreamers, referring to Congress’ failed effort to revive the legal protections that nearly 1 million young Americans currently have under the Obama-era program. O’Rourke said he supports a direct path to citizenship for Dreamers and protections for the parents of Dreamers.

“Is that going to make America more brown?” he asked the crowd, referring to this country’s history of welcoming immigrants. “Absolutely. Is that a good thing? Absolutely.”

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm based in Raleigh, recently released a poll that found Cruz leading O’Rourke by eight points. Cruz’s camp released its own poll last month, citing an 18 percent lead over O’Rourke.

The 2018 U.S. Senate elections will be held in Texas on November 6.