O'Rourke brings presidential campaign to Minnesota

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to a crowd.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to a crowd Wednesday during a meet-and-greet event at Angry Inch Brewing in Lakeville. O'Rourke also attended a town hall event at Edison High School in Minneapolis later the same day.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke introduced himself to Minnesotans in his first visit to the state since announcing his campaign for president in March.

"Thank you for receiving us and welcoming a stranger from far west Texas," he told a cafeteria full of Minnesotans at Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, during a town hall-style gathering that lasted more than an hour.

O'Rourke drew national attention last year during his unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Republican Texas Sen. and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

In Minneapolis O'Rourke talked about a variety of issues ranging from universal health care to free community college. He said he would provide a path to citizenship for so-called "dreamers" who were brought to the United States as children by undocumented immigrant parents. He also said he is for a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour.

Minneapolis residents attend Beto O'Rourke's town hall in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis residents gather at Edison High School for Beto O'Rourke's town hall.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Some of the biggest cheers came when O'Rourke discussed Tuesday's deadly Denver-area school shooting.

"We can look to those states that have adopted universal background checks where gun violence has dropped by 50 percent and extend them to every single state in this union," he said.

O'Rourke also took questions from the crowd — stressing often that he would reach across the aisle if elected president.

"Let us define ourselves not by whom we are against not who we are afraid of, not who it is that we hate," he said. "Let's instead be known forever after by our ambitions, aspirations, the work, the creativity, service and sacrifice we will bring to bear in order to achieve them."

That's something that stuck with Minnetonka resident Annette MacConnell, who was in the audience.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a town hall
Beto O'Rourke speaks during a town hall at Edison High School.
Nina Moini | MPR News

"How he runs a political campaign without calling names and the ugliness that seems to surround so many of the politics, so when we saw he was going to be in town we wanted to come out and see him in person," she said.

She was also one of many attendees who feel torn amid the growing pool of more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

"I really like Amy as well, but I haven't heard her as much uniting and wanting to reach across to all," MacConnell said.

For Nikola Alexander of Minneapolis, it's simply too soon to decide who to support in 2020.

A crowd listens to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speak.
A crowd listens to Beto O'Rourke speak at Angry Inch Brewing in Lakeville, Minn. during a meet-and-greet.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

"It just gives us more options, more choices, more opportunities to hear their positions on key programs and key policies, so I'm going to listen to as many as I can and then make my decision."

O'Rourke is the third Democratic presidential hopeful to visit Minnesota after Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg in the past few days. President Trump narrowly lost here in 2016 and has said he believes he can turn Minnesota red in 2020. Vice President Mike Pence will be in Minnesota Thursday talking about trade.

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