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Beto O’Rourke Makes Democratic Presidential Campaign Swing Through California

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Beto O'Rourke talks with agriculture students at Modesto Junior College.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke is hoping the Golden State will breathe a fresh spark into his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

O’Rourke toured irrigation facilities with students at a community college in Modesto on Monday and later held a roundtable with farmers, business people, researchers and others after starting his day with a walking tour through legendary Yosemite National Park.

He also unveiled a $5 trillion proposal to fight climate change in a state that has sought to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions while challenging the Trump administration at every turn.

“Those who are helping to produce the food on our table are bearing the brunt of climate change — maybe disproportionate to anyone else in this country,” O’Rourke said at the roundtable.

The students who heard O’Rourke speak at Modesto Junior College were there at the campaign’s invitation; the events were not open to the public.

Monday marked day three of O’Rourke’s four-day swing through California. He held a rally in Los Angeles on Saturday and a town hall in San Francisco on Sunday. He’s planning another town hall on Tuesday in San Diego.

O’Rourke is looking for new momentum in a presidential primary that now includes 20 Democrats. He’s one of a few candidates seen as fighting for the same voters as former Vice President Joe Biden, who joined the race late last week.

The former congressman launched his campaign last month with great fanfare and strong fundraising totals, but polls nationally and in key primary states show him in mid-single digits, mired in the middle of the pack. His strongest showing so far is in Texas, where he’s neck and neck with Biden in a state he represented in Congress for three terms and narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz last year.

In California, where voting by mail in the state’s new March primary will begin the day of the Iowa caucuses, the strongest candidates so far appear to be Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who still holds a strong base of support from his 2016 presidential campaign. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris has earned the majority of the state’s endorsements and is also expected to be a major contender.

California will award its valuable — and plentiful — Democratic primary delegates by congressional district, which likely explains O’Rourke’s swing through the Central Valley and his visit to the Yosemite area. He also met Sunday night in Mariposa with firefighters who battled one of the many wildfires last summer that have devastated the state in recent years.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Radio