Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso City Council member and three-term member of Congress, lost his race against Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday.
It was the second time in four years that O’Rourke came up short in his effort to become the first El Pasoan elected to statewide office. He lost narrowly to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.
O’Rourke addressed his supporters at about 9:30 p.m. at the Epic Railyard Event Center just east of Downtown El Paso Tuesday night. Abbott had built a more than 10-point lead by the time O’Rourke took the stage, and the Associated Press had already called the race for the two-term incumbent.
“I cannot thank you enough,” O’Rourke told the crowd, noting that this may be his last time before them. That elicited cries of “no.”
After months on the road criss-crossing the state, he must now figure out his role going forward.
After highlighting many of his campaign priorities, he said: “That still is the Texas that I want to live in. … I don’t know what my role or yours will be going forward, but I’m in this fight for life.”
He left the venue without granting interviews.
Maria Zubia and her friend Jocelyn Flores, both 22, were among the first arrivals at O’Rourke’s watch party. Both described themselves as longtime supporters. This was their first time voting for O’Rourke in a general election.
“I’m here for every marginalized group that I’m part of and the people I love are part of — as a woman, as a Hispanic, as a lesbian, someone with mental health issues” Zubia said.
Zubia, who works as an occupational therapist assistant, said that if Abbott wins a third term she and her girlfriend would consider moving out of state, possibly to New Mexico or Colorado, in order to have access to “basic, basic human rights.”
“It’s extreme,” she said of the potential move, “but (Abbott) is being extreme. … He doesn’t do anything except make it worse for everybody.”
Rene Romo, 52, was another early arrival to the event holding a sign identifying himself as an O’Rourke supporter since “Day 1.” Day 1 for him, Romo said, was when O’Rourke challenged then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary. O’Rourke went on to hold Texas’ 16th Congressional District seat for six years before stepping down to challenge Cruz in 2018.
Romo’s connection to O’Rourke is personal: he credits the candidate with re-energizing his then-16-year-old niece to remain in politics after she was devastated by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss.
“I’ll continue to believe in him, and I’ll continue to support the causes he believes in because he believes in me, he believes in us. Whatever’s next for him, I’ll support him,” Romo said.
Romo said he hopes O’Rourke continues mobilizing young people to participate in politics.
“I’ve seen him engage with younger voters and future voters,” Romo said. “I think that’s what he’s best at so I don’t want him to lose that. I think the Democratic Party still needs that young leadership.”
“I don’t want him to lose his voice,” he continued, “because it’s a powerful voice for us to have in this state, especially in these divisive times and especially for our party that continues to find the next generation of leadership that hopefully he can bring out.”