Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.”
The former Texas congressman spoke to a throng of neighbors and media inside the house, located deep inside the heart of Summerlin.
“I never have house parties,” homeowner Artie Blanco said before introducing O’Rourke, who had arrived in the city only hours earlier.
But the opportunity exists to “give the power back to the people” and for O’Rourke to be the candidate who makes it happen, said Blanco, a fellow Texan and a Democratic National Committee member.
Orating from atop a chair — it has become O’Rourke’s signature move of sorts to stand on furniture — he said his campaign would be run “one living room at a time.”
O’Rourke cycled through a platform driven by, as he summed, viewing Americans as people first without consideration for political affiliation, geographic location or status.
“We’ve understood that it’s not walls or militarization that makes our community safer, it is treating people with the respect and dignity that they are owed,” he said, “not only as our fellow Americans but as human beings.”
He pointed to the concentration of wealth and power in the U.S. as a sign of a broken system because basic building blocks such as health care, child care, housing and education are not affordable to most Americans. He called for paid family leave and urged supporters to join the fight for a $15 federal minimum wage.
The U.S. as the “world’s leading democracy” should also take the reins on addressing global warming, O’Rourke added, saying that responsibility to act falls “perhaps more on our shoulders than the shoulders of any other people on the planet.”
He cast criminal justice reform as a good start, but he said the country also must reckon with institutionalized racism. Speaking on veterans issues, he said the U.S. owes it to service members to be more thoughtful about entering conflict abroad and that “a blank check” to go to war had been given to the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
When asked, he also said he would “absolutely” consider a woman as a running mate, suggesting he believes in a ticket that “resembles and reflects this country” although he was careful not to presume he would advance from a crowded field of Democratic candidates that sits at over a dozen.
Partygoers told the Review-Journal outside the kitchen that a string of recent visits to Nevada from presidential hopefuls has given them a better sense of their choices.
Speaking of O’Rourke outside in the pool area, Jerry Allred said he was “really impressed by his energy” while his wife Sandy Backus-Allred said Saturday’s speech hadn’t hurt her impression of him and noted how the intimate environment ensured his message got across.
“You get kind of lost in the big convention room or school gym,” she said. “This is more personal.”