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Keokuk First Stop for O'Rourke Presidential Campaign

Jason Parrott
Beto O'Rourke is swarmed by reporters as he leaves his first campaign stop at the Lost Canvas coffee shop in downtown Keokuk Thursday morning.

Beto O'Rourke told a standing room only crowd at the Lost Canvas Coffee Shop in Keokuk Thursday morning that he will never forget his first visit to the city. That's because Keokuk was the backdrop for the former Texas congressman's first campaign stop in his bid to be the President of the United States of America.

O'Rourke joins a crowded field with more than a dozen declared Democrats and a few more still deciding whether to enter the mix. He said he stands out because of his experience living along the U.S./Mexico border and because he was able to put Texas in play for Democrats during his narrow defeat to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last fall.

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
O'Rourke spoke to a standing room only crowd in Keokuk, his first stop as an official Democratic candidate for President.

O’Rourke walked into the Lost Canvas, shook some hands, and immediately stood on a large metal chair so he could see everyone.

“Thank you all for being with us and welcoming me to your community,” said O’Rourke. “Keokuk is the first stop in our campaign to be the President of the United States and it is a huge, huge honor to be here with you.”

O’Rourke told the crowd he entered the race with an eye to the future.

“It’s [my] kids, it’s your kids, it’s your grandkids and the generations  that follow that push us out in the country to do this incredibly important work together,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke brought plenty of energy with him, receiving multiple rounds of applause during his roughly 30 minute visit. He even had to ditch his sports jacket and his sweater during the event to cool off.

The former congressman answered about a half-dozen questions on a wide range of topics, though he did not provide a lot of specific plans or ideas.

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
O'Rourke (L) shakes the hand of Keokuk resident Chuck Betts during O'Rourke's first campaign event.

O’Rourke said

  • Climate change is a crisis that must be addressed immediately.
  • Everyone should have access to guaranteed, high-quality health care.
  • Democrats should not attack each other during the campaign.
  • Teachers should make enough money that they do not have to work additional jobs to pay their bills.
  • Additional investments should be made in mental health care.
  • We should end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Keokuk was just the first stop for O’Rourke in southeast Iowa. He also visited Fort Madison and Burlington on Thursday. He plans to spend three days in the Hawkeye state to kick off his campaign.
This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.