Metro Weekly

HRC endorses Beto O’Rourke against Ted Cruz in Texas Senate race

El Paso congressman has boasted a pro-LGBTQ voting record since first being elected

Beto O’Rourke – Photo: Facebook.

The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is up for re-election this November.

“The choice for Texas voters this November could not be starker,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “While Ted Cruz has spent his career undermining the rights of LGBTQ people for his own cynical, political gain, Beto O’Rourke is a proven champion of equality who will defend the rights of all Texans.

“Now more than ever, it is crucial we have elected officials such as O’Rourke pushing back against the Trump-Pence agenda in Washington and fighting for the rights of all their constituents back home, including those who are LGBTQ,” adds Griffin. “By electing Beto O’Rourke and defeating the anti-equality Ted Cruz, we can not only pull the emergency brake on this administration’s hate-fueled agenda, but send a message that the days of attacking LGBTQ people for political gain are over.”

O’Rourke, who represents a U.S. House district in the El Paso area, earned a rating of 85% during the 114th Congress, which ran from January 2015 to January 2017, on HRC’s congressional scorecard. He also earned a 100% rating during the previous Congress, just after he was first elected. O’Rourke supports marriage equality, LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and anti-bullying protections for LGBTQ students in schools.

In contrast, Cruz holds a zero percent rating for the 114th Congress, and a 20% rating for the 113th Congress. He has consistently opposed LGBTQ rights throughout his career, and even campaigned on it when he ran for president in 2016. Cruz is one of the sponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the government from penalizing people who try to justify discriminatory acts by citing religious beliefs that oppose same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or extramarital sex.

The decision to endorse O’Rourke is noteworthy because most national organizations do not like to endorse candidates who are likely to lose the general election or are running on unfavorable turf. But O’Rourke has garnered much press for visiting areas of the state that are not Democratic strongholds, many of which haven’t seen a candidate for statewide public office visit in years, and making his pitch to voters. As of last week, O’Rourke had visited 230 of Texas’ 254 counties

As such, HRC’s decision to endorse O’Rourke is quite significant, as it signals that the organization believes he is running a viable campaign and has at least an outside chance to knock off Cruz.

HRC has had full-time staff on the ground in Texas for more than a year, many of whom were part of the coalition that fought to defeat an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” that was being pushed in the state legislature. Those same staffers are expected to provide significant support, in the form of canvassing, phone banking, and field operations, to assist O’Rourke’s campaign in turning out voters to the polls.

“Our campaign is proud to have the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign and its thousands of advocates for LGBTQ equality across Texas,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “Together, we will work to ensure our state finally has a voice in the Senate who is committed to passing the Equality Act, standing up to discriminatory and dangerous measures like SB 6, supporting transgender troops serving our country across the globe, ensuring caring same-sex couples can open their home to one of Texas’ 30,000 children in foster care and continuing the daily fight for equal justice under law in this country.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com