Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke addressed a packed bar overlooking Cleveland’s industrial valley Monday afternoon, days after announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
O’Rourke spoke for about 45 minutes, taking questions from an audience that filled Gino’s Cento Anno and spilled outside onto the patio in Cleveland’s Brooklyn Centre neighborhood. He opened by telling the crowd the country had never been more polarized.
“We need to make sure that we see each other not as Democrats or Republicans, not as rural or urban, not people of different races and religions and immigration status,” he said, “but before any of those differences count, we see each other as Americans, as human beings.”
O’Rourke said he had spoken with Sen. Sherrod Brown earlier about General Motors’ layoffs. His campaign later posted a video of him in Lordstown talking with David Green, the president of the United Auto Workers local whom President Trump criticized in a tweet over the weekend.
Asked in Cleveland about climate change, O’Rourke called the Green New Deal the “boldest and best proposal yet” on the issue. On immigration, he said people brought to the country unlawfully as children should become citizens.
“Let’s legalize and free the Dreamers from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens in this country,” he said, “and let’s go forward living our values in everything that we do, including, especially in, immigration.”
O’Rouke said he supports universal background checks for all gun purchases. Noting that he comes from a state where gun ownership is widespread, he suggested there should be limits on new sales of high-powered rifles like the AR-15.
“If you own an AR-15, I don’t want to take it from you,” he said. “Keep it, continue to use it responsibly. All I’m saying is we don’t need to sell any more of them into our communities.”
The Texas Democrat lost his challenge to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, and the Ohio GOP pointed to that defeat in a statement responding to his visit.
“We would like to remind the voters of Ohio about the long list of accomplishments Mr. O’Rourke has,” a statement from party executive director Robert Secaur read. It continued: “Lost his U.S. Senate Bid.”