What 39,000 Words in 15 Profiles Didn’t Tell You About Beto O’Rourke

I’m pretty sure three new profiles of Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke have been published in the time it took me to write this lede. Yet the only thing more remarkable than the sheer volume of stories written about the congressman is that none of them put his 2012 House victory in proper context.

I read more than a dozen profiles, and they most often describe a young, sweaty candidate with Kennedy-esque looks and punk sensibilities as an accidental and almost reluctant challenger to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. But O’Rourke was never going to be content with being on the El Paso City Council or playing bass for the band Foss.

It’s true, of course, that he successfully challenged a 16-year incumbent in the 2012 Democratic primary in Texas’ 16th District. O’Rourke, who is of Irish descent, defeated Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the area’s first Latino representative in Congress.

Reyes had support from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, but O’Rourke didn’t win because of anti-establishment fervor. He was the preferred choice of an influential group of local elected officials.

Former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and former El Paso Mayor Ray Caballero led a movement to elect more liberal Democrats to state and local office and created a powerful political machine. Defeating an old guard politician like Reyes was just a continuation of the plan, and O’Rourke was in place to do it.

O’Rourke was a popular El Paso city councilor with deep family roots in the…

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