Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will “very likely” support the eventual Democratic nominee challenging one of his best friends in Congress, GOP Rep. Will Hurd. It’s a reversal from O’Rourke’s vow of neutrality in the 2018 midterm elections.
Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer who raised more than $6 million in her failed bid to unseat Hurd in 2018, recently announced she is jumping into the race to challenge Hurd again in 2020. O’Rourke indicated Wednesday that he does not plan to repeat his neutrality vow and, instead, “will be supporting” Ortiz Jones if she emerges victorious from the Democratic primaries.
Hurd, who represents Texas 23rd District along the U.S.-Mexico border, defeated the Democrat by less than 1 percentage point in 2018.
O’Rourke and Hurd thrust their friendship into the public spotlight in March 2017, when they live-streamed a “bipartisan road trip” from San Antonio, Texas, to Washington, D.C., after a historic snowstorm on the East Coast caused mass flight cancellations into the capital.
The two lawmakers ate hamburgers at Texas fast food chain Whataburger, revealed their iPhone passwords to one another, and sang Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” as they passed through Tennessee.
Some Democrats in the state lambasted O’Rourke, who in 2018 lost his Senate bid to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by 2.6 percent, for not helping Ortiz Jones in her race against Hurd, arguing that his endorsement could have helped turn out enough Democrats on Election Day to swing the result in her favor.
“I’m a big fan of Gina,” O’Rourke told CBS News in an interview Wednesday. “She may have other competition, so I don’t want to put my thumb on the scale in that intra-party race, but should she be the nominee, I will be supporting her.”
O’Rourke has changed his position on the matter, he said, because he no longer needs to maintain working relationships with members of the other party in Congress.
“We need to maintain the majority — increase it if we can — in the House of Representatives. It’s a little bit of a different scenario for me now. I’m no longer a member of the House. I no longer have a day-to-day working relationship with colleagues and friends” including Republicans like Hurd,” O’Rourke said.
Hurd has won by razor-thin margins in each of his elections to the House.
In 2014, he edged his Democratic opponent by roughly 2,500 votes. In 2016, he won reelection by 3,100 votes, and Hurd’s 2018 defeat of Ortiz Jones was by 1,000 votes.