The Democratic primary is a race to the left in an attempt to match progressive positions and rhetoric from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two progressive darlings have set the tone in a primary where the other candidates are constantly flip-flopping in order to rewrite their records.
Beto O’Rourke has not been immune to this new reality. He has made it clear that he will change his views and policy positions in order to match the leftward move of the primary electorate.
During his stint in the House of Representatives, Beto had a voting record that is “more conservative than the average Democrat’s.” As a result, Beto has had to shift far to the left in order to match up ideologically with where the primary electorate is today. Notably, he has flip-flopped on wall funding, offshore drilling, campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry, and eminent domain.
Recently, Beto went one step further than his Democratic primary opponents by not only saying he doesn’t want to build more border wall but that he also wants to tear down existing border walls. He noted that his home of El Paso was safe “in spite of walls” and that existing wall structure has cost billions of dollars to build and maintain.
Beto’s voting history doesn’t live up to the new rhetoric he has used to placate the left. In March 2017, Beto voted for a funding package that included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Included in that $1.6 billion was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing in those areas, including his home of El Paso.
Beto has a checkered history with the oil and gas industry. In a continuation of his more conservative voting record, but new liberal rhetoric while running for President, Beto has flipped his stance on offshore oil and gas drilling.
In 2016, O’Rourke voted against an amendment from then-Democratic colleague Gwen Graham, whose Florida district included coastal shores. Beto’s vote “left the door open to using federal money to study oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where offshore drilling is mostly off limits.”
During a trip to South Carolina in February 2019, O’Rourke seemingly flip flopped on his previous support for offshore drilling by praising local U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham for “ensuring that we do not have offshore drilling right here in this state.” South Carolina is one of the first states to hold a Democratic primary contest. Offshore drilling is a hot button issue in the state and attracts opposition from members of both parties. The state is very important for O’Rourke in his bid for the Democratic nomination.
Oil and Gas Money
Offshore drilling isn’t the only place Beto’s love of the oil and gas industry has necessitated a flip-flop. His love of campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry has compelled him to break his pledge that he would not take money from industry executives or lobbyists. However, in the first quarter of 2019, O’Rourke broke both of those promises.
At an event in New Hampshire in April 2019, an activist pointed out that Beto’s campaign had accepted a $250 contribution from a Chevron lobbyist.
Beto’s lobbyist cash isn’t the only campaign money promise that he has broken. In response to criticism that he was too close to the oil & gas industry, Beto had said that he would not accept campaign contributions from oil & gas company executives. Beto was unable to uphold this promise through the first quarter of 2019. O’Rourke accepted over $22,000 from eight industry executives.
During his stint as a member of the city council in El Paso, O’Rourke was a supporter of a revitalization project in downtown El Paso that was led by his father-in-law. One of the local business owners in the neighborhood pointed out the conflict of interest Beto was exposed to:
“Beto’s got to get out of the scene,” Kimmelman demanded. “That’s not fair that he’s sitting there on the council as a spy for his father in law. That’s outrageous. That’s horrible. It’s a clear conflict of interest that he’s sitting there in meetings on behalf of his father-in-law and not on behalf of his constituents.”
Nowadays, one of the reasons Beto is against building additional border wall structures (another flip flop) is that he opposes the use of eminent domain to acquire the land. O’Rourke introduced legislation in 2017 that would ban acquiring land for the border wall by the use of eminent domain.
Beto O’Rourke is trying to find himself in a crowded Democratic primary field where there is an ever decreasing number of voters who will support a candidate in the vision of his record. As a result, Beto has had to flip flop on his previous beliefs in order to rewrite history in an appeal to the electorate. Only time will tell if Democratic primary voters are attracted to Beto’s attempt to win over their vote by any means necessary.
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