Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke brought his campaign to Tucson on Sunday, telling supporters if elected he would work to fix America's health-care system, to legalize marijuana nationwide, and to act on gun control in his first 100 days in office.
The three-term Democratic congressman spent more than an hour at Gentle Ben's Brewing Co. near the University of Arizona campus, talking to more than 100 people crowded into the second floor of the popular brewery.
The first presidential candidate to visit Tucson as part of the 2020 campaign, O'Rourke is best known for challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for his seat in Texas last year. O'Rourke is one of 19 people running for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
O'Rourke talked about the El Paso Walmart shooting in August that killed 22, placing the blame on President Trump's dangerous rhetoric.
"Before he walked into that Walmart with that AK-47, he posted a manifesto, and said that he was going to repel that invasion. The exact words that the President had used; he was going to stop his replacement as a white man by Hispanics in this country," O'Rourke said. "Ladies and gentlemen, we must connect the dots. This was not an act of God. This was not some force of nature. This was wholly predictable based on the rhetoric and the practices and the policies of this president."
O'Rourke addressed one of Tucson's darkest chapters — the Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting that killed six and wounded 13 others, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
He credited Giffords and Moms Demands Action, a gun control group, for moving the issue to the political center.
O'Rourke was asked by Deborah Parker, a member of Moms Demand Action, about making gun issues a top priority — specifically addressing it in his first 100 days in office. Her 19-year-old daughter, Lindsay Key-Parker, was killed in Phoenix in 2006 in a drive-by shooting.
The candidate vowed to call gun violence a public health crisis on his first day in office.
"We will have universal background checks, we will have red flag laws, we will have mandatory licensing and registration and we will buy back those AR-15s which belong on the battlefield, but not in our lives," he said.
He also promised massive reform on health care, saying the people are dying for treatable illnesses in the wealthiest country on the planet.
"Today, there are people dying of diabetes because they do not have the copay for insulin. People succumbing to the flu because they don't have $119, which is their copay for flu medication," O'Rourke said. "You have our fellow Americans with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and clinical depression, literally being forced to get arrested on purpose to go to the one place where they are guaranteed care in America today."
He added that he would legalize marijuana and expunge the arrest records of those caught by police with a small amount of marijuana.
The El Paso native singled out several people in the crowd, including the city of Tucson's former transportation director, Daryl Cole.
"We loved you in El Paso. So we're glad that you're here now and thank you for coming out to welcome us," O'Rourke said.
Cole resigned his city position in February 2018 shortly after an internal investigation found evidence he sexually harassed one of his employees.
After the rally, O'Rourke told the Arizona Daily Star he was unaware of the allegations but was still willing to call Cole his friend.
"Yeah, absolutely. I worked with him in El Paso," he said.