Politics

O’Rourke Hosts 110 Barbecues in One Day for Senate Campaign

Cruz challenger attends virtually via YouTube Live

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, to combine 'cue and tech in his Senate campaign. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Beto O'Rourke is blending time-tested strategies with new ones in his campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

The Texas Democrat deployed a classic grassroots initiative by hosting a slate of more than 100 barbecues all over Texas last Saturday. But he brought that good ol’ Texas hospitality to constituents from behind his computer, via YouTube Live.

“From El Paso, Del Rio, Longview to Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Waco, Lufkin, Taylor and other communities across the state, more than 100 BBQs have been registered with nearly 1,000 Texans RSVP’d,” O'Rourke’s campaign said in a news release Friday promoting the events.

O’Rourke, 45, is Capitol Hill’s resident techie. Before Congress, he was a former tech businessman who started the internet services company Stanton Street Technology, which his wife now operates.

In March, he and Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd drove 1,600 miles from San Antonio to Washington, D.C., after airlines canceled flights all up and down the East coast in preparation for a winter storm. Along the way, they answered questions from constituents via Periscope and Facebook Live.

O'Rourke dubbed the trip the “longest cross-country livestream town hall in the history of the world.”

The third-term Democrat has pledged to raise no money from political action committees. He had $2.9 million cash on hand at the end of the last filing period, per FEC documents. Cruz is sitting on $5.7 million.

O’Rourke faces an uphill battle to eject the incumbent Cruz, who has cultivated a national profile since he was elected with the tea party behind him in 2012 and as a candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

Democrats in Texas have not won a statewide race since 1994, and previous attempts to beat Republicans have fallen flat. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn beat his Democratic challenger by 17 points in 2014 and Cruz won the open Senate seat in 2012 by 16 points.

Inside Elections With Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.Correction Nov. 8, 8:55 a.m. | An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated O'Rourke's campaign would be hosting a series of more than 100 barbecues before the 2018 Senate election in Texas. All 110 barbecues were held Saturday, with more to come, a spokesman told Roll Call Wednesday. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.

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