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Beto O'Rourke barnstorms Boerne with political stump speech

Crowds gathered behind Boerne Public Library at its amphitheater on Friday to listen — or criticize — one of this election year's political celebrities.

Temperatures approached 90 degrees as the start time drew near. Marilyn Harrington greeted people as they came in.

“This is an opportunity for people to get up close to him (and) to ask him questions that maybe they have that he hasn't answered yet and is to increase our spirits. We need our spirits lifted,” she explained.

Boerne voted in the mid-80 percentile for former President Donald Trump’s reelection, so the Hill Country gateway town isn’t known for its embrace of Democratic candidates.

Peg Layton has seen the polls showing O’Rourke behind.

“I know the odds are tough, but I still think there's a lot of those people, some out there in the middle, that are considering it,” she said.

Shawn Bonner cites a literary metaphor in describing why she prefers O’Rourke.

“Texas has become The Handmaid's Tale state, thanks to (Gov. Greg) Abbott. Taking away a woman's right to choose is very important to me,” Bonner said. “And Beto agrees that women should have the right to choose.”

Beto O'Rourke
Jack Morgan
Beto O'Rourke

Susan Dollar thinks with recent national events, the wild card is held by women.

We think it'll be close, but people are now a little more energized because of the Supreme Court situation, and it has galvanized women and young people. So Beto will win in November,” she said.

O'Rourke arrived, jogging up and greeting members of the crowd. He then took the stage, electing to stand in the sun instead of the shade provided for him. He focused some of his remarks on energy.

“I want to make sure that we're producing the energy resources we need right here in this state and those jobs come to the state. But I also want to make sure that we expand our energy leadership. Right now, today, Texas is number one in the country in the generation of wind power. And that's great,” O’Rourke said.

“But I want us to be number one in solar. I want us to be number one in geothermal. I want us to be number one in hydrogen. And I want us to be number one in creating the high value, high wage, high skilled jobs that come with this energy revolution that we are starting right here in the state of Texas.”

About 300 people showed up, but not everyone in the crowd was cheering. A group of about a dozen people stood in the back. One person held a flag that read, "Come And Take It." They declined to speak to TPR.

O'Rourke said he understands the divisions in Texas and that he knows how to bring people together.

anti-Beto protesters
Jack Morgan
anti-Beto protesters

“We've got to be talking about the things that matter most to the most people. So great schools, making sure that we focus on the kind of jobs that our kids and grandkids should be able to find and work here in Texas. Common bipartisan things like expanding Medicaid or making marijuana legal in the state of Texas,” he said.

He added: “Most of us, regardless of party identification or geography or any other distinction, can get behind things like that. It's the divisive culture war issues that Governor Abbott has chosen on abortion, on this prosecution of transgender kids, on deciding what textbooks or history books can be taught in the classroom. Those are the things that divide us and pit us against one another. So we're focused on common ground and uniting Texans.”

After the speech, the crowd dispersed. O’Rourke took questions and selfies with a few dozen fans that stayed behind. Then, he thanked them and drove on to the next event.

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Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii