Where Did Beto O’Rourke Come From, Get His Wealth?

Beto O’Rourke sparked a movement in Texas this year that lit the state’s Democratic Party on fire. Despite Tuesday’s narrow loss in the U.S. Senate race to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, O’Rourke could blaze a path to a 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

O’Rourke didn’t shun the idea of a presidential run at his post-election gathering in El Paso on Tuesday.

“I am as inspired as I’ve ever been,” O’Rourke said in the West Texas town. “Tonight’s loss does nothing to diminish the way that I feel about Texas or this country. … I love you, El Paso.”

It didn’t take long for Twitter to call for him making a 2020 presidential bid. Not directly answering the call, O’Rourke said Tuesday “this is only the beginning,” and that his work isn’t over yet.

President Donald Trump’s odds at winning the White House again in 2020 dropped from 13/8 to 6/4 with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power. The lead Democrats who will challenge Trump, according to Paddy Power and other betting sites? How about Beto O’Rourke (10/1), Senators Kamala Harris of California (10/1) and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (12/1), and former Vice President Joe Biden (14/1).

But before dropping wagers in anticipation of the smooth-talking, fresh-faced, youthful West Texan, here are some answers to questions like: What is Beto’s background? Where did he go to college and eventually get his money? And how did this Democrat become a political “rock star” in a Republican-heavy state?

He was born in 1972 as Robert Francis O’Rourke. His family began calling him “Beto” at a young age. The name is typically short for Spanish names ending in -berto. He’s a fourth-generation Texan who’s of Irish-American descent.

He’s the son of Patrick “Pat” Francis O'Rourke and his second wife, Melissa Martha O'Rourke. Pat served the El Paso community first as county commissioner, then as county judge — which, in Texas politics, is the face of the county. Pat switched to the GOP party and had unsuccessful runs at other public offices, per this report in The Dallas Morning News.

Beto left El Paso at an early age when he attended Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Virginia. He stayed on the East Coast to attend Columbia University, where he majored in English and was a member of the school’s heavyweight rowing team.

O’Rourke remained in New York after graduating Columbia, and he still moonlighted with his punk band Foss, where he was a bass guitarist. O’Rourke worked for an internet-service provider company and eventually found his way back to El Paso.

He started a company called Stanton Street, a web design development business.

“Over the years Stanton Street hired dozens of people in high skill, high-wage jobs that one might not expect to see in a border community,” his political website reads.

He entered politics when he successfully ran for El Paso City Council in 20005. And after two terms, he moved up and successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. And after three terms in Washington, he raced against Cruz, where he lost Tuesday by just two-and-a-half points to the powerful Senator from Houston.

It’s the only political race O’Rourke has ever lost.

But along the way, he gained national stardom for his energy and charisma. He ignited the college-aged voting base in Texas. He visited all 254 counties in Texas during his campaign leading up to the midterm election.

The story behind O’Rourke’s wealth goes back to when he met his wife, Amy, whose father was a billionaire real estate investor in El Paso. A New York Times article points out that Beto’s father-in-law, William Sanders, had a plan to redevelop a dilapidated section of El Paso at the same time O’Rourke was on the city council.

Sanders had a plan to turn a neighborhood that had become an eyesore, with buildings boarded up and run down, into a festive district with restaurants, shops and an art walk that could rival the Riverwalk in San Antonio. The idea brought visions of tourists dollars by the millions, and the El Paso mayor supported a plan that would allow eminent domain over the poor residents, mostly Mexican-Americans in the historic neighborhood. O’Rourke, though he sometimes abstained from voting, supported the vision.

A report from the Washington Times indicates that O’Rourke in 2015 was the 51st-richest U.S. Representative — out of 435 members — with $9 million in wealth. In comparison, the Times article states Ted Cruz was worth $3.8 million, ranking him 41st out of 50.

And when it came time to raise money for his Senate race, O’Rourke nearly doubled what Cruz brought to his account. By election night, O’Rourke had eclipsed $70 million as the two candidates surpassed the $100 million mark, as evidence in their countless TV ads and campaign stops equipped with star power from Trump for Cruz to Willie Nelson for O’Rourke.

Now with 2018 behind and the Democrats gaining momentum after taking back the House, and despite losing a pair of seats in the Senate, O’Rourke could be the next face of the party looking to regain the White House.

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