Beto O'Rourke hits back at Texas lawmaker in AR-15 dispute by raising money for his opponent

‘My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,’ state Rep. Briscoe Cain said after O’Rourke’s assault rifle comments in debate last week

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke boosted a state legislative candidate who is challenging a Republican in Texas who O’Rourke says threatened him over his assault rifle comments last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A  long-shot Democratic candidate for the Texas legislature may have outpaced his opponent in fundraising over the weekend with the help of Beto O’Rourke.

Josh Markle, a Democratic candidate for the 128th District in Texas, raised $68,000 following an endorsement from O’Rourke, possibly surpassing incumbent state Rep. Briscoe Cain’s $56,000 war chest, the Houston Chronicle reported

O’Rourke sent a fundraising pitch to his supporters Saturday urging them to donate to the Democratic challenger in retaliation for a taunt by Cain: “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,” he said, referring to O’Rourke by his birth name.

Cain was responding to a noteworthy moment during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Thursday when O’Rourke said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” in response to a question about gun violence. 

O’Rourke has made remedying gun violence a centerpiece of his campaign since a shooter armed with an AK-47 killed 22 people, targeting Latinos, in his hometown of El Paso in August. He has proposed a mandatory national buyback program for certain automatic weapons. 

O’Rourke described Cain’s missive as a “death threat” and his campaign reported it to the FBI.

[Beto O’Rourke campaign reported Texas state lawmaker’s AR-15 tweet to FBI]

O’Rourke capitalized on the dispute in his fundraising pitch Saturday, pledging to split the donations with Markle. 

“Last year, Briscoe Cain ran completely unopposed. This time, the Texas House Democratic caucus is running a campaign with Josh Markle to defeat him,” O’Rourke's campaign wrote. “The more money we can raise for them today, the stronger and clearer our message to Cain becomes.”

Markle, an Air Force veteran and former volunteer for  O’Rourke’s 2018 Senate campaign, thanked the former Texas congressman for the influx of donors.

In its email to supporters, O’Rourke’s team raised the possibility that Cain was able to garner donations in an appearance on Fox News about the spat. 

Cain reiterated his opposition to O’Rourke’s proposal in an interview with KHOU Saturday.

“This is America, and this is Texas. If the government were to come and demand two of my guns, or all of them, I would still have some left because they’re never going to get them,” he said.

Asked about his own safety, Cain said he was taking precautions. 

“My family is under protection. [The Texas Department of Public Safety] has been contacted.”


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