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10 things about Beto O'Rourke

The 46-year-old Texas Democrat is going national, jumping into the presidential primary and kicking off his run in first-in-the-nation Iowa.
Image: Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke speaks during a rally on Feb. 11, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.Christ Chavez / Getty Images file

Beto O'Rourke formally threw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Thursday. Here's some things you might not know about the native Texan:


O'Rourke met then-teacher Amy Hoover Sanders on a blind date in El Paso after being set up by friends. He took her across the border into Juarez, Mexico, for drinks. "It was a little bit of a test, to see if she was up for an adventure," he told the Washington Post in 2017. They got married 10 months later.


After graduating from Columbia University, O'Rourke reportedly worked for a few months as a live-in nanny for a family on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He took several other temporary gigs, including as an art mover for a company called Hedley’s Humpers. He later returned to El Paso, where he started his own media company called Stanton Street. It helped build and maintain websites, and published an alt-weekly style paper.


O'Rourke's father, Pat O'Rourke, was the El Paso county commissioner from 1978 to 1982 and a county judge from 1982 to 1986. The dad also worked on the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in 1988.


While he's best known for losing his Senate race campaign against incumbent Ted Cruz in 2018, O'Rourke had been 5-0 in elections before that. He was elected to the El Paso City Council in 2005, defeating a two-term incumbent, and was later re-elected. He first ran for Congress in 2012, and reportedly knocked on 16,000 doors to defeat an eight-term incumbent in the Democratic primary. He served three terms before launching his Senate bid, where he was defeated by heavy favorite Cruz by a margin of 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent.


O'Rourke has said he got into punk music in eighth grade thanks to the classic Clash album "London Calling." He and three pals formed a band called Foss, and put out a record called "The El Paso Pussycats" in 1993. O'Rourke played bass.


Vinyl isn't O'Rourke's only kind of record. He was arrested in 1995 for sneaking under a fence with some friends to get onto the property of the University of Texas in El Paso. A misdemeanor burglary charge was dropped the next year. In 1998, O'Rourke was arrested for what he's called a "far more serious mistake: I drove under the influence." He was reportedly speeding and hit a truck. No injuries were reported. The charge was dismissed in 1999 after O'Rourke finished a court-recommended DWI program.


O'Rourke is a longtime skateboarder — and did an interview with boarding bible Thrasher Magazine during his Senate run.


O'Rourke says one of his favorite books is Homer's "The Odyssey," and he named his oldest son Ulysses, 12, after the classic poem's lead character. He and his wife, who now heads a nonprofit focused on education, have two other children, Molly and Henry. They also have two dogs and a cat.


O'Rourke is of Irish descent, and his full name is Robert Francis O'Rourke. O'Rourke said his parents started calling him "Beto" — a common nickname for Roberto in Mexico — as a child. Cruz accused him of adopting the name to sound Hispanic during their bitter Senate battle. That led O'Rourke's supporters to accuse Cruz, whose first name is Rafael, of using his nickname as his first name to sound less Hispanic. O'Rourke also tweeted a picture of himself wearing a shirt with the name as a child to prove he was no Beto-come-lately.

10. BORN TO RUN...

O'Rourke's dad reportedly told people he'd given his son the nickname in part just in case he ever decided to run for office in El Paso. "I believe it, I believe it," O’Rourke told the Dallas Morning News when told of what his father had said. "He was farsighted in that way."