DENTON — Democrat Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke held a town hall rally Saturday at Backyard on Bell, fresh off the heels of a wave of favorable polls in the contentious Senate race.
O’Rourke is campaigning to unseat incumbent and former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz who has held the seat since assuming office in 2013.
Traditionally a deeply republican state, Democrats are hoping to gain political ground in a fight for a “blue wave,” and thus far are beginning to see potential results. Recent polls show Cruz ahead by as much as nine points and as little as one point.
Democrats credit this polling surge to a grassroots campaign which has seen O’Rourke making campaign stops in all 254 of Texas’s counties. During his fifth Denton appearance since announcing his candidacy, the El Paso congressman urged Denton residents not only to get out and vote, but not to take the back seat on issues important to them.
Amber Briggle is a long-time Denton resident who vocalized her support for Beto’s positions on equality.
“He spoke about immigrants,” she said. “He talked about the LGBTQ community. He talked about equity and education. It’s equal rights for all. I’m kind of a fan of that.”
Erica Ortega, on the other hand, is less familiar with O’Rourke’s platform.
“I want to know more about his [stance on] immigration reform, the children in cages,” she said. “And also, what he plans to do with education. I work with children who have special needs, and I really want to know what he plans to help reform not only the United States but especially Texas.”
O’Rourke’s campaign stop drew an estimated 2500 people to the outdoor music venue, according to bar staff. After the venue and indoor bar reached capacity, locals surrounded the area, hurled themselves on top of fences and sat on the curb across the street at the Denton Civic Center.
But despite large turnout for the town hall, some admit there is more work to be done to ensure a “blue wave.”
“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” Briggle said. “I think the challenge for every candidate of any political background is just to make sure that your supporters get to the polls. We can talk about a blue wave. We can talk about keeping Texas red. But what it really, ultimately comes down on who can get people out to vote.”
Despite democratic push for a “blue wave,” O’Rourke sends a different message when it comes to the political demographics of Texas.
“This is not going to be a blue wave,” he said. “This is not about changing the partisan color of the state. This is about making sure that every single one of us—republican, independent and democrat—is represented in the United States Senate.”