The former Texas congressman announced his candidacy on Thursday, becoming the 15th challenger for the 2020 Democratic nomination. In a video released to social media, O'Rourke pledged to run a "very positive campaign" and bridge the partisan divide currently facing the country.
O'Rourke gained widespread recognition last year by nearly defeating incumbent senator Ted Cruz, becoming the first Democrat in decades to mount a serious challenge for statewide office in the heavily Republican-leaning Lone Star State. He's compiled an extensive business resume in his three terms in Congress and in his previous career as an entrepreneur. Here are six facts you ought to know about his background.
1. He has a business background.
O'Rourke co-founded Stanton Street Technology Group in 1999, a web design company based in El Paso. He was also a partner at a real estate company called Imperial Arms, and owned a stake in a shopping center in El Paso called Peppertree Square, according to a 2016 financial disclosure form.
2. He supports more tax deductions for startups.
Last year, he voted for the American Innovation Act of 2018, a bill that proposes changes to the tax code to allow startups that lose money to deduct future taxes. The legislation could also help improve a startup's valuation in an acquisition. The bill passed in the House but has not been voted on in the Senate.
3. He has supported some deregulation.
In 2017, O'Rourke voted in favor of the Privacy Notification Technical Clarification Act. The bill, proposed after the Equifax data breach and backed by multiple Wall Street lobbying groups, eases rules requiring financial firms such as payday lenders to inform customers when their personal information is shared with third parties. The act passed in the House but has not been voted on in the Senate.
4. He opposes President Trump's border wall.
O'Rourke, who represented Texas's 16th Congressional district, located adjacent to the Mexican border, has argued against building a wall. "Let's own this moment now and in the future and show the country there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the U.S.-Mexico border," he recently told The Wall Street Journal.
5. He wants to legalize marijuana nationwide.
Earlier this month, O'Rourke sent an email to supporters calling for the federal legalization of marijuana, CNN reports. He also called to expunge the criminal records of people convicted for marijuana possession.
6. He says he got his nickname as a kid.
Born in El Paso, his full name is Robert Francis O'Rourke and he has Irish ancestry. "Beto," however, is a popular nickname in Mexican culture for people named Roberto. Critics have speculated the nickname was a strategic decision aimed at appealing to the Hispanic population in Texas, a claim O'Rourke denies. He says it's a childhood nickname that simply stuck with him, and even released a childhood photo where he's wearing a sweater with the word "Beto" on it.