Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke reached out to Al Sharpton last week as the Texan considers a run for the White House in 2020.
Rachel Noerdlinger, a spokesperson for Sharpton told BuzzFeed News that the two spoke by phone Friday.
“They spoke and agreed to meet within the next couple of weeks and they had a great conversation,” she said.
O’Rouke’s outreach to the New York City-based advocate comes after a Nov. 16 meeting between O’Rourke and former President Barack Obama, The Washington Post reported.
Another Post report said O’Rourke would meet soon with Mindy Myers, who ran Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 campaign before becoming Warren’s chief of staff. Warren is among the many names mentioned as a possible Democratic White House candidate in 2020.
A New York Times report, which called O’Rourke the “wild card” of Democratic politics after his “star-making” campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said other Democratic candidates are worried and wary of O’Rourke.
But some Democrats worry that below O’Rourke’s folksy style there is a lack of substance.
“He says a lot of nice things,” said Waleed Shahid, who worked for Bernie Sanders in 2016. “Then you try to remember anything that stood out in terms of policy ideas, and it’s kind of flat.”
But for the Democratic Party, this is about emotion as much as platforms.
“Democrats fall in love,” said Gene Martin, a regional Democratic chairman in New Hampshire. “He would get a king’s welcome.”
Chicago financier Louis Susman, who supported Obama in 2008, wants to see O’Rourke, 46, in the race, according to CNN.
“It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation,” said Susman. “I have nothing against the Bidens and Kerrys of the world and all of these senators that are looking at (running), but I think the Beto example is what inspired people and what we are going to need.”
At a time when the 2018 midterm elections saw powerful candidates emerge from the ranks of minorities and women, there is some resistance to a white male as the champion of the Democratic Party.
“Why Beto and not the other two? I think Andrew and Stacey are equally talented,” said Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina legislator, referencing Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams or Florida’s Andrew Gillum, both of whom lost their races for governor of their respective states by margins smaller than O’Rourke’s Senate defeat to Cruz.
Sharpton, however, could bolster O’Rourke among black voters because he has long been a polarizing and strident voice on the issue of race.
A 2015 Jackson Sun Op-Ed by Walter Williams summed up some of Sharpton’s one-liners.
“Hardly anyone blinks an eye at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s racist statements, such as: ‘White folks was in the caves while we (blacks) was building empires. … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was. … We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it,'” Williams wrote.
“‘So (if) some cracker come and tell you ‘Well, my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,’ you better hold your pocket. That ain’t nothing to be proud of. That means their forefathers was crooks. If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house,'” Williams also quoted Sharpton as saying.
O’Rourke has neither fueled nor dampened speculation that he will run for president. He has said he would address his plans for 2020 once his current term in Congress has come to a close next month.
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