AFL-CIO Passes on Endorsing O’Rourke

Comes after concerns about his support for free trade

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said he was unable to attend the Texas AFL-CIO convention because of other commitments. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Texas branch of the AFL-CIO passed on endorsing Rep. Beto O’Rourke at its convention in his challenge against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke did not attend the labor group’s convention in Austin on Sunday and was not listed on the slate of statewide candidates the group was endorsing, the Texas Tribune reported.

“Just because you have a D or an R behind your name doesn’t determine whether you’ll have our support,” Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, said.

Levy said the federation “had significant concerns about the congressman’s commitment to fighting for working people and unfortunately he wasn’t at the convention to address any of those concerns.”

Among those concerns was O’Rourke’s past support for Trade Promotion Authority, which would subject trade deals to an up-or-down vote without the ability to amend.

But O’Rourke said his vote did not mean that he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which labor unions vehemently opposed, but rather that he did not want to make the deal subject to congressional Republicans.

The Democrat from El Paso told the Tribune his team tried to schedule an appearance at the convention, but he had other campaign events that were ultimately canceled because of the government shutdown. 

“It’s on me to further develop and strengthen those relationships, and if anybody feels they’re being taken for granted, that’s on me to fix,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke, who is running against two little-known opponents in the Democratic primary, is considered a long shot against Cruz in the general election. 

But O’Rourke noted that he has a 95 percent lifetime score from the labor federation, as opposed to Cruz, who has a 12 percent lifetime score.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

How the Open Seats Are (or Aren’t) Creating Opportunities in the House

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.