2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke holds San Diego town hall

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SAN DIEGO -- Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke concluded his first trip to California as a 2020 presidential candidate Tuesday with a town hall discussion near Lincoln Park.

Doors to the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation opened at 10 a.m. for an enthusiastic crowd.

"He just has a whole vibe that you want to be around," said Baylee McGuire, a Beto supporter. "He knows what to say to make you feel welcome."

"He spent the first three minutes talking in Spanish," pointed out Ricardo Gutierrez, who still hasn't chosen a politician to support. "He answered my question in Spanish, and that's endearing."

The town hall came a day after O'Rourke released a plan to confront climate change, visited Yosemite National Park and conducted a roundtable discussion at Modesto Junior College, meeting with farmers, advocates, industry experts, academics from California's Central Valley to learn about how climate change is impacting their communities and what solutions they believe are most effective.

"Climate change is the mother of all challenges," he said in front of the crowd at the Jacobs Center. He said the next 10 years are critical to transition off fossil fuels to renewable energy.

"I think my generation is going to be impacted most by climate change," said Baylee McGuire, a Beto supporter. "So, I like that he talks about it.”

He also spoke about universal healthcare, banning assault rifles, and equal pay for women and minorities.

O'Rourke began the trip Saturday by holding a rally at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. He conducted a town hall in San Francisco on Sunday.

O'Rourke declared his candidacy March 14, four months after saying in an interview on MSNBC, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's, I think, as definitive as those sentences get."

In a three-minute, 25-second video sent to supporters declaring his candidacy, the 46-year-old O'Rourke called for "fixing our democracy and ensuring that our government works for everyone and not just for corporations."

O'Rourke also promised to "listen to, and lift up rural America," "work on real justice reform, and confront the hard truths of slavery, and segregation and suppression in these United States of America," and "reassert our global leadership and end these decades-long wars, and be there for every woman and man who've served in them."

In response to O'Rourke's declaration, Republican National Committee Communications Director Michael Ahrens said, "Beto O'Rourke failed to get anything done in Congress, and with extreme policies like government-run health care and tearing down border barriers, his 2020 bid won't be successful either."

O'Rourke was a three-term congressman from the El Paso area who gained nationwide prominence for his unsuccessful challenge of Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, in 2018, receiving more votes than any Democrat in Texas.

Born Robert Francis O'Rourke on Sept. 26, 1972, in El Paso, O'Rourke's Irish American family gave him the nickname "Beto" while he was an infant, initially to distinguish him from his grandfather, Robert V. Williams.

Beto is a common Spanish nickname for first names ending in "berto."

O'Rourke received a bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1995, majoring in English literature.

O'Rourke began his political career in 2005, when he defeated a two- term incumbent to win a seat on the El Paso City Council. He served on the council through 2011.

O'Rourke defeated eight-term incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes in a primary in 2012 and won the general election race in the predominantly Democratic district by more than 30 percentage points.

If elected, O'Rourke would be the first president born in the 1970s and the second Roman Catholic, joining John F. Kennedy.

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