Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke visited USC's campus today to meet students, discuss his campaign goals and hear students' opinions on the election.
Sponsored by USC's College Democrats, O'Rourke addressed students, faculty and alumni in a town hall event on the Russell House patio. O'Rourke said he was excited to speak at USC after students and alumni reached out to invite him.
“There is so much pride in this institution," O'Rourke said. "I’ve heard so many great things, and I want to be here and see it for myself."
The El Paso native ran against Ted Cruz for Senate during the 2018 midterm elections. Though he lost the senate race, O'Rourke received national attention and appeared to attract younger voters. Since he announced his candidacy on March 14, O'Rourke has toured the country and visited colleges such as Keene State College in New Hampshire and Penn State University. He also visited South Carolina State University later Friday afternoon.
“I want to make sure that this campaign is all about bringing people together,” O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke addressed many topics that could be critical during the 2020 presidential election, including the Mexican-American border, overpopulation in prisons and healthcare reform. He focused on the history of inequality and discrimination from both his home state of Texas and South Carolina, bringing up the economic disparity between races in America. O'Rourke emphasized his goals to create more inclusion and equality in America.
Arianna Sayles, a third-year psychology student, said she is considering voting for O'Rourke in the midterm election. She said she believes it is important for candidates to visit USC's campus.
“I think the college vote is really where it’s at,” Sayles said.
Mckenzie Rice, a second-year public health major, said he enjoyed hearing O'Rourke's opinions but hoped he would be more concrete.
“I like how he addresses the issue, I do wish he would talk more about how he would do everything," Rice said. “I actually consider him the candidate I’ll be trying to vote for."
After his speech, O'Rourke answered questions from the audience. Attendees asked questions concerning teachers’ wages, police shootings, health care reform and the opioid crisis. O'Rourke said he believes the war on drugs has become a "war on people."
One audience member asked O'Rourke to address his history with accepting fossil fuel money, despite his policies on environmental protection. The individual wanted to know if O'Rourke would take oil money in the future.
O'Rourke said he took money from a variety of people in addition to the fossil fuel industry. This was because he refused to accept political action committee donations. He said his campaign was also the highest recipient of funds from hairdressers and pharmacists, and that donations by advocates of fossil fuels were only a small portion of his funds.
In the back of the crowd a a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology student named Emmanuel Torres held up a sign saying "¿Por que Beto?" Torres was hoping for answers from O'Rourke during the speech. He said he currently does not think he will vote for O'Rourke in the 2020 election.
“He seems to be a people person, but it’s kind of hard to say with his shady background,” Torres said. “There's a lot of questions still out there.”