O’Rourke campaigns in Claremont

  • Democratic Presidential Primary Candidate Beto O'Rourke greets Prescott Herzog, 16, of Claremont, right, following an event at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont, N.H., on a two-day trip through the state Wednesday, March 20, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Bethany Yurek, of Claremont, records video on her phone while listening to Democratic Presidential Primary Candidate Beto O'Rourke at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont, N.H., Wednesday, March 20, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Beto O'Rourke speaks to members of the media following an appearance at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont, N.H., Wednesday, March 20, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2019 12:38:58 PM
Modified: 3/21/2019 10:53:03 AM

CLAREMONT — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke criticized President Donald Trump for stoking “fear and anxiety” over immigration as the Texas Democrat spoke to about 65 people on Wednesday morning at the Common Man restaurant.

O’Rourke said that his experience living and representing the border town of El Paso in Congress “flies in the face of the rhetoric, fear and anxiety you hear about the U.S.-Mexico border,” and Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border.

“El Paso, Texas, is one of the safest cities in America,” O’Rourke said.

Current immigration policies were just one issue that in “no way reflect our values or the reality on the ground,” said O’Rourke, who was on the second day of a campaign swing through New Hampshire. Another big one: an economy that “is working far too well for far too few.”

“When you have corporations with this kind of control, the dynamism in our economy begins to fail,” O’Rourke said. “Small business creation falters; jobs, meaning and purpose and functions in our community begin to disappear.”

Valerie Orellana, a Hanover resident, asked O’Rourke how he would address teacher wages in public schools and the debt accumulated by college students paying their tuition.

“I want to make sure we invest in our community colleges so that they’re free for any one of our fellow Americans who want to attend them,” he said.

O’Rourke also touched on funding for public schools, pointing out that both New Hampshire and Texas, his home state, don’t have an income tax and rely heavily on property taxes to fund local schools.

“The tax rate goes higher and higher. We’re almost taxing people out of their homes,” he said. “What if we guarantee greater federal investment in public education contingent upon state governments doing their part, so we don’t reward bad behavior from state governments that have shunned their responsibility or shove it off to somebody else?”

How New Hampshire funds public education has been a central topic of discussion statewide and the focus of several bills in the Statehouse. Claremont is among the municipalities in the 1990s that sued the state for more education funding.

O’Rourke also touched on the opioid crisis.

“The goal: universal guaranteed high-quality healthcare, expanding Medicaid, Medicare as an option, addressing the opioid crisis not as a criminal justice issue but as a public health issue,” he said.

Throughout his speech and answers to audience questions, O’Rourke touted his experience campaigning for a Senate seat in Texas against Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke lost that race in November by 2.6 percentage points but says it provides a blueprint for a presidential campaign.

“We were part of transforming politics in Texas,” he said. “No matter how blue or how red (the county), they were every bit deserving of our respect, of being heard and of being listened to.”

One audience member asked O’Rourke how he’d get voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 to vote for a Democrat again.

“If we do not deliver to those we purport to serve, I would not blame them or judge them for voting for someone else from another party,” he said. “First, show up, then deliver on your commitment, then always listen and be accountable to those you serve.”

After his 45-minute appearance, Ken Dennis, a retiree from Newport, said he liked O’Rourke’s enthusiasm, thought process and youth.

And while O’Rourke addressed a number of challenges facing the country, “I wish he had more answers for problems the country does have,” Dennis said.

Charlestown resident Jane Patton said she’s concerned about reversing the changes the Trump administration has implemented over the past two years.

“We are systematically removing the protections that the country had in health care, in the environment, the things that were established under Obama,” Patton said. “Trump is systematically changing all of that, and it’s dangerous.”

Patton, who is retired following a career in the skiing industry and with horses, said she is pleased Democrats like O’Rourke are now also espousing issues championed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016.

“I worry for my nieces and my nephews. I worry for my neighbors who have children who are being hurt by the opioid crisis. I worry for the environment of course because that affects us all,” she said.

O’Rourke’s campaign raised $6.1 million in its first 24 hours after he formally announced his candidacy last week.

Talking with reporters after the event, O’Rourke said his campaign had received 128,000 individual contributions averaging $47 each.

O’Rourke’s also campaigned at Plymouth State University and Conway on Wednesday, and was headed to an evening appearance at the University of New Hampshire.

Daniela Vidal Allee can be reached at dallee@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.




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