Rep. Beto O’Rourke often touts his mother in speeches and interviews as a lifelong Republican, who now supports his effort to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Not really.
According to a CNN report Tuesday, Melissa O’Rourke is a frequent voter in Democratic primaries who donated to Barack Obama before he became president.
“Melissa O’Rourke has largely voted in Democratic primaries in Texas since 2000, and she has donated money to candidates from both parties. She donated to Cruz and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, but she also previously donated to the presidential campaign of then-Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in 2007,” CNN reported.
Mrs. O’Rourke told CNN that “for the most part I have voted Republican probably nationally and then more regionally, more Democrats.”
She attributed her turn to Democratic voting and donation in recent years to President Trump and his rhetoric on the border wall and immigration, which she said are “so far right. It’s just — there’s no humanity.”
But according to CNN, Mrs. O’Rourke cast a ballot on the Democratic side of 15 of the last 17 primaries in which she voted, including Democratic primaries that included presidential contests as far back as 2000. Texas is an open-primary state.
According to CNN, her donations to Democrats included $250 to Mr. Obama’s campaign, $1,200 to Ronald Coleman, a Democratic congressman from Texas, from 1983 to 1990.
Indeed, Mr. O’Rourke hinted in an interview last month that his mother’s political history is more complicated than he sometimes says it is.
“I introduce my mom sometimes, and I kid her a little bit, like ‘my mom’s a lifelong Republican, but we got her to vote for us in this race.’ One day, she came up to me, and she said, ‘You know, that’s just not right: I would describe myself as an independent now, not a Republican. Definitely not a Democrat.’ I don’t know what the size of that universe is, but anecdotally we’re meeting a lot of people who have described themselves that way,” Mr. O’Rourke told Buzzfeed.
Regardless of the truth in the details, CNN wrote, Mrs. O’Rourke as her son describes her “is the exact sort of voter he’ll need to win over” to win a U.S. Senate seat for the Democrats in conservative Texas for the first time since 1988.
According to Chris Evans, the communications director for Mr. O’Rourke’s Senate campaign, his boss’s mother voted in Democratic primaries as a strategic necessity in heavily Democratic El Paso.
“The primary voting record you are pointing to is common in places that are overwhelmingly controlled by one party,” he told CNN. “In the case of El Paso, many people vote in the Democratic party primary because the result determines the outcome for that office in November. For example, the winner of the Democratic party primary for Congress will be the next representative.”
“Melissa has — with the exception of 2016 — always voted Republican for president,” he added. “She has always introduced herself as a Republican, though now identifies as an independent or belonging to no party at all. She receives fundraising emails, electronic newsletters, and direct mail fundraising pieces from Republicans because of her past voting history and past participation in their campaigns.”