Beto O’Rourke was the first Democratic presidential candidate of this election cycle to speak to students and locals during a town hall Sunday, Oct. 6.
O’Rourke spoke to a full rooftop at Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company.
“This is a moment of truth,” O’Rourke said. “It will define us forever and decide anything and everything that you care about in this country, forever going forward. No pressure, Tucson. The responsibility is ours at the moment.”
Addison Lavis, a criminal justice and Spanish major at the University of Arizona, attended the town hall.
“I thought it would be a neat opportunity to hear from a presidential candidate, on his own terms and not on a debate stage,” Lavis said in an email.
Immigration was another big focus of the town hall. O’Rourke spoke about the Trump administration’s sentiments toward immigrants.
“Not only did he put their children in cages and deport their mothers back to the country from which they fled, not only has he lost the lives of seven children to date in our custody and in our care, but he described them as an invasion, as an infestation, as predators, as animals,” O’Rourke said of Trump.
O'Rourke, who is from Texas, said the El Paso shooter was enabled by anti-immigrant rhetoric Trump said at a rally in Florida earlier this year. O’Rourke said similarities in the shooter’s manifesto were similar to Trump’s language.
To address gun violence, O’Rourke had multiple ideas, including universal background checks.
“End the sale of weapons of war,” he said. “We’re going to buy back every single AR-15 and AK-47. No longer will they be in our schools, in our churches, in our synagogues, in our lives. Keep them on the battlefield. Keep that shit out of our lives.”
O’Rourke mentioned the treatment of people of color in this country, noting that hate crimes have increased under the Trump administration. e drew connections between Tucson and El Paso regarding immigration.
“You and I, Tuscon and El Paso, will rewrite immigration laws in our own image,” O’Rourke said. “No more walls, no more cages, no more internal deportation.”
Patrick Robles, a freshman studying public management and policy at the UA, asked what an O’Rourke administration would do for public education, given Arizona's RedforEd strikes last year.
O’Rourke said he will increase funding for special education teachers and address segregation in public schools.
“I’m going to make sure that we clear student loan debt for every teacher and educator in this country,” he said.
Carlos Martinez, president of the Young Democrats at the University of Arizona, introduced O’Rourke.
“It meant a lot to me that they reached out to us, making sure young people are an integral part of this movement and making Arizona blue in 2020,” Martinez said while introducing O’Rourke.
Alison Jones, chair of the Pima County Democrats, also introduced O’Rourke. She mentioned Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Martha McSally hosted a private event last Thursday and called it a town hall.
“This is how you hold a town hall,” Jones said. “We are a battleground state. The road to the White House goes right through here.”
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O’Rourke’s concluding message was unity in a time of division: “The people of Arizona, with 11 electoral college votes, and the people of Texas, with 38 electoral college votes, are going to make the difference and are going to be the states that put Donald Trump away forever, and bring a very divided and very polarized country back together again.”
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