Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas congressman who gained national prominence during his 2018 race to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, stopped for a speech and Q&A at a brewery in Charleston Friday afternoon.
The mixed-age, mostly white crowd listened raptly as O'Rourke, who announced his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on March 14, stood on a table and powered through a sore throat at Tradesman Brewing Company.
In a political elevator pitch, he ran through a list of positions and issues popular among his fellow candidates, including increased access to health care, a path for citizenship for those who arrived to the United States as children, opposition to President Donald Trump's plans for a border wall, and climate change, with a local focus on flooding and offshore drilling.
"In a country that is suffering a crisis in maternal mortality, three times as deadly for women of color in the United States of America, we need primary health care, mental health care, and every woman making her own decision about her own body," he said.
O'Rourke did not elaborate on a specific health care policy, but when a man shouted "universal healthcare," the candidate shouted back, "Yes!"
In the first 24 hours of his campaign, O'Rourke raised $6.1 million. That's slightly more than Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who announced his bid on Feb. 19 and raked in $5.9 million during his first day as a candidate. Sanders boasted about 95,000 more individual donors than O'Rourke did, according to Vox
He harked back to El Paso, Texas several times during his speech, making a connection between flooding issues in his hometown and in Charleston.
During a brief Q&A, a woman asked about the future of those who benefit from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era policy allows people who arrived to the United States as children illegally to avoid deportation.
"I spoke earlier about how we are one of the safest cities in America in El Paso because we are a community of immigrants," he answered in Spanish. "Dreamers that are here are contributing to the success of America, the success of South Carolina, the success of Charleston. They need citizenship to continue at their maximum potential."
O'Rourke represented El Paso for three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran against 2016 presidential candidate and Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, but lost by about 215,000 votes, or less than 3 percent of the vote.
Friday's campaign stop was held shortly after news broke
that special counsel Robert Mueller had delivered his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William Barr. The report concludes Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and whether Trump's campaign cooperated in the effort. The inquiry has ensnared a half-dozen former aides to Trump, who is running for re-election in 2020.
On Saturday morning, O'Rourke will meet with Lowcountry Students for Political Action, a student-led gun reform group. He will also host a town hall with state Sen. Marlon Kimpson at 9:25 a.m. at Burke High School, according to a schedule released by his campaign.