O’Rourke trying to make a fight of it for U.S. Senate

I am going to give credit to a young member of Congress who wants to upgrade his status as a public official.

Beto O’Rourke is a Democratic congressman from El Paso. He’s running for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Republican Ted Cruz.

What deserves a word of praise is that O’Rourke is coming here, to Amarillo, the unofficial “capital city” of the most Republican region of one of the nation’s most Republican states.

He’s scheduling a meet-and-greet this coming Saturday at Abuelo’s Restaurant. He’s going to shake a few hands, get his picture taken with individuals, perhaps answer some questions from those coming to meet the young man.

OK, I get that the election is more than a year away. O’Rourke might not even win his party’s primary next spring; another young up-and-comer, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio is thinking about challenging Cruz.

That’s a decision to be made by others.

But I’m struck by the idea that a Democrat would come here. I understand this isn’t the first time O’Rourke has ventured this far north since announcing his candidacy. I’ve long lamented the idea that Democratic candidates have given up on the Panhandle while Republican candidates take this region for granted.

This ain’t necessarily a battleground region within Texas, if you get my drift.

Am I going to assert that some back-slapping at a popular eatery in Amarillo is going to turn this region into a critical front in the fight for political supremacy? Oh, no.

I do have to give Rep. O’Rourke some props, though, for spending some time among Panhandle partisans. Just maybe we can restore some competitiveness to these statewide races.

There once was a time, as the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen used to say, that “politics in Texas is a contact sport.” It hasn’t been that way for more than two decades, since the last time a Democrat was elected to a statewide office here.

I am left to wonder — indeed, hope — that Beto O’Rourke is ready to return some of the rough-and-tumble to Texas politics.

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