U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke experienced the limits of bipartisanship at a San Antonio campaign event Monday night when a local precinct chairman challenged him to “take a stand with your fellow Democrats” and distance himself from U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) – and then stormed off when O’Rourke refused.

James Kane, Democratic chairman of Bexar County Precinct 1046 on the city’s southwest side, said Hurd votes overwhelmingly in support of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda. He then asked the Democratic congressman from El Paso to publicly distance himself from Hurd.

O’Rourke refused, saying, “[Hurd is] a good friend of mine, a good legislative partner. If I spend the next 12 months working against the guy, he’s not going to trust me enough to be able to work with me to get things done.”

“You don’t have our support,” Kane responded.

“I gotcha. I gotcha. That may be the price of bipartisanship,” O’Rourke answered.

Kane interrupted. “No. It’s not bipartisanship. … You’re backstabbing us.”

“Gotcha,” O’Rourke responded, adding, “Anyone who thinks these are screened affairs, knows that they’re not,” prompting laughter. “But I do appreciate the fact that you’re here.”

After the event, Kane, a disabled veteran, told the Rivard Report he would support O’Rourke in the general election only if he endorsed other Democrats on the ballot, mainly the one who faces Hurd in Texas Congressional District 23.

Kane said Democratic voters will judge O’Rourke if he keeps refusing to question Hurd on his votes or lack of criticism of President Trump.

“Democrats need to stand up with Democrats,” Kane added.

O’Rourke and Hurd became an unexpected online hit earlier this year when they embarked on an impromptu “bipartisan road trip,” driving from Texas to Washington, D.C., after bad weather cancelled their flights.

O’Rourke got a more favorable response from others in the crowd, including Hartmut Lau, who complimented former President George W. Bush and other elected leaders — especially Republicans — who openly address divisive, intolerant attitudes shared by many of their more conservative associates in political discourse.

“I really would strongly ask that you beat them up on that subject every opportunity because there are more decent people around than those who would subscribe to ‘casual cruelty‘ against people who can’t fight back,” Lau added.

O’Rourke agreed, saying no presidential administration or party in power should see itself as above criticism or reproach.

He praised U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), John McCain (R-Arizona), and Bob Corker, (R-Tennessee), as well as Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, all for their willingness to be bipartisan on federal or Texas issues. Straus (R-San Antonio) last week announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.

O’Rourke told the Rivard Report he’s worried that Straus’ pending retirement could mean fewer moderates in the next state legislature.

“He’s been a voice of moderation,” O’Rourke said, citing Straus’ work on such controversial issues as the so-called bathroom bill. “There are things that Speaker Straus and I have disagreed on, but he brought such a decency to that job.

“I’m just grateful to his service. He’s the kind of elected leader we need more of.”

The projected race between O’Rourke and Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is shaping up to be one of the most-watched contests in the November 2018 elections. A crowd of about 100 supporters attended the campaign meet-and-greet at Paper Tiger on the St. Mary’s Strip.

Political observers were surprised earlier this year when O’Rourke raised more money than Cruz, a first-term incumbent, in the second quarter of campaign finance reporting.

According to the Texas Tribune, Cruz reported having $6.38 million cash on hand in campaign finance reports earlier this month, compared with O’Rourke’s $2.8 million. But the three-term congressman has pledged not to accept contributions from political action committees or special/corporate interests.

That promise – and his homespun, unorthodox approach – have endeared him to many progressive Democrats.

During the outdoors event, O’Rourke expressed concern about the fate of “dreamers” – the some 800,000 undocumented immigrants whose permits to remain in the country may expire in about four months unless Congress passes the DREAM Act.

O’Rourke predicted that if a vote were to be held tomorrow, the DREAM Act would pass due to bipartisan support in Congress.

He urged the attendees to take to the polls to express their views on such issues as the DREAM Act, noting that public pressure has been demonstrated repeatedly with the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare.

O’Rourke also chided efforts to curb women’s rights on reproductive health care. Noting that while Texas leads the the country in the rate of maternal mortality, state and federal governments are making it “harder for women to access life-saving medical care and make their own decisions about their own bodies,” he said.

He also took issue with how two plain-clothed Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested an undocumented transgender woman in an El Paso courtroom, as she sought protection against her abusive boyfriend. Such incidents, O’Rourke said, spark even more fear among immigrants.

“If you’re concerned about what’s going on in the country, you know that this moment, right now, this election in 2018, could not be more urgent, critical or necessary,” he added.

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.