05/30/2012 02:55:39 AM MDT
Former city Rep. Beto O’Rourke bucked a nationwide trend Tuesday night by ousting eight-term U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the 16th Congressional District race.
In the final tally, O’Rourke beat Reyes by 23,248 votes to 20,427, or 50.5 percent to 44.4 percent.
Nationally, challengers rarely defeat incumbents in primary elections, and only a few exceptions have occurred so far this election cycle.
When the first numbers were posted earlier Tuesday evening — the results of early voting — O’Rourke had a healthy 51.3 percent to 43.3 percent lead, but Reyes was closing the gap as the evening progressed. However, he was not able to garner enough votes to push the race into a runoff election.
“Can you all just confirm for me that this is really happening?” O’Rourke asked the hundreds of supporters at The Garden who answered with a deafening cheer. “I want to thank all of you for making this possible.”
Earlier, after hearing results minus only two precincts, O’Rourke’s campaign staff hoisted him into the air and then doused him with Champagne while chanting, “Beto! Beto! Beto!”
“I feel really good,” O’Rourke said earlier. “I ran as hard a race as I knew how. I went to every debate and forum to meet people and listen to them and address their concerns.”
Reyes blamed what he said was negative media coverage, $240,000 spent in El Paso by a super PAC targeting longtime incumbents for defeat, and “my opponent who deliberately ran a nasty, dirty campaign.”
Asked whether he had made any mistakes, Reyes said: “If we hadn’t done what we did — phone banking, contacting over 30,000 homes, the kinds of things we did — we ran a professional campaign.”
Standing in front of an East Side elementary school just after the polls closed, O’Rourke took a call from someone reporting the early results. Slowly, a smile spread over his face and he said, “Sounds pretty good.”
Downtown, on the top floor of the DoubleTree Hotel, Reyes supporters exchanged worried glances when the first results were posted. They looked at their phones and tablets in anticipation of new numbers.
Reyes was briefed by a staff member as he walked off the elevator. He retreated back into the elevator, and the staffer promised he would soon return. Three hours later he returned for news media interviews, but he left before the final results were recorded.
A Coronado High School exit poll conducted by students during early voting and on election day showed Reyes edging O’Rourke among voters identifying themselves as Democrats.
O’Rourke racked up large margins among voters saying they were independents or Republicans, which represented about a third of Democratic primary voters, according to the exit poll.
About two-thirds of voters said they were Hispanic, and they favored Reyes by almost 9 percentage points. But O’Rourke carried the non-Hispanic vote by almost 50 points, according to the poll results.
The exit poll of more than 900 Democratic primary voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The race — defined by some as experience versus new blood — probably will determine who takes a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 general election because the El Paso electorate is heavily Democratic.
Reyes campaigned on his experience and connections in Washington, D.C., which he said helped save Fort Bliss from closure. The post, he warned, could face another Base Realignment and Closure process, which would require an experienced hand.
Reyes also touted the billions of federal dollars spent on an unprecedented post expansion, and millions of dollars in federal stimulus money he secured for El Paso.
But much of the Fort Bliss expansion money, O’Rourke said, went to out-of-town contractors. And he accused Reyes of being out of touch with his constituents.
O’Rourke said he connected to voters by personally ringing more than 16,000 doorbells across the county. And he said people told him they were ready for change.
In those over-the-fence conversations, O’Rourke said, he found common themes. El Paso needed economic stimulus, which means good jobs, and a full-service Veterans Affairs hospital.
O’Rourke hammered Reyes for not solving the problem of long waits at the international bridges. He said those bottlenecks are choking off millions of dollars in commerce and threatening tens of thousands of jobs.
During the campaign, Reyes agreed that a new VA hospital is necessary. Regarding the bridge waits, he said newly elected Republicans, unwilling to compromise on spending issues, had blocked his $5 billion bill that would solve those problems.
Reyes accused O’Rourke of being na ve about the way things work in Congress.
The congressman also made an issue of O’Rourke’s stand on legalizing marijuana, which Reyes opposed. O’Rourke said it would deny cartels a major profit source, potentially reducing violence in Juárez, and allowing the drug to be better regulated. He also said he would not pursue the issue in Congress because voters did not consider it a priority.
Reyes, to prove his status in Washington, brought a string of high-level officials to El Paso, including former President Bill Clinton, who personally reaffirmed an endorsement delivered earlier in a video. Reyes also received an endorsement from President Barack Obama.
But Reyes had other connections that were problematic, O’Rourke said.
He accused Reyes of being too close to people involved in the public corruption investigations and other criminal activity. And he pointed to campaign donations Reyes received from some of those people.
Reyes has not been accused of any wrongdoing and said he set aside the money, which will be donated to charity after convictions or confessions.
In the final week of the race, as the campaigns took on an increasingly negative tone, Reyes attacked O’Rourke’s character.
A Reyes campaign television advertisement recounted the circumstances of O’Rourke’s burglary and driving-while-intoxicated arrests in the middle to late ’90s. O’Rourke said he responded to those charges during his successful campaign for City Council when he apologized for making bad decisions as a young man. He said he had tried to give back to the community since then.
The Reyes ad drove home its point with a recent cellphone video that allegedly showed O’Rourke intoxicated and rolling on a barroom floor.
O’Rourke, admitting it was him, said he slipped and fell when dancing. He denied being drunk.
The O’Rourke campaign countered with an ad outlining the circumstances of a no-bid federal contract awarded to a company that hired Reyes’ children and donated $17,000 to his re-election campaigns.
Reyes said he had nothing to do with awarding the contract or the hiring of his children.
O’Rourke will face Republican Barbara Carrasco in the Nov. 6 general election.
Other Democrats in the primary were Jerome Tilghman, Ben Mendoza and Paul Johnson Jr. They took a combined total of 5.2 percent of the vote.
Beto O’Rourke was born on September 26th, 1972 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beto_O%27Rourke
September 26th, 1972
9 + 26 +2+0+1+1 = 39 = his personal year (from September 26th, 2011 to September 25th, 2012) = Perfect. Ideal. Nice.
39 year + 5 (May) = 44 = his personal month (from May 26th, 2012 to June 25th, 2012) = It is what it is.
44 month + 29 (29th of the month on Tuesday May 29th, 2012) = 73 = his personal day = You’re hired!
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