When Beto O’Rourke visits Pittsburgh on Wednesday, his campaign says he’ll address pressing issues like gun violence and impeaching President Donald Trump. But he’ll do some listening too, both at a gathering with the SEIU, and during a campaign event being billed as a Town Hall in Oakland’s Schenley Plaza.
“What makes Beto really special as a candidate is his commitment to listening,” said Aleigha Cavalier, the national press secretary for the O’Rourke campaign. “So many other candidates come in and they do a big show. That’s just not the kind of the campaign we’re running. There will be opportunities to ask questions – it will be whatever is on anyone’s mind at the time.”
O’Rourke plans to host a lunchtime gathering in Oakland, with the campaign welcoming voters beginning at 11:30 a.m. Prior to that, he is set to meet with workers who will include members of SEIU Healthcare, which has been engaged in a pitched organizing battle with healthcare giant UPMC.
Other candidates who have come to Pittsburgh – including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders – have blasted UPMC for fighting a unionization drive among hospital service workers. Cavalier says O'Rourke's conversation will also touch on broader issues of economic fairness.
“Pittsburgh has gone through this incredible revitalization that can be a model for so much of the country, but what gets left out of the conversation is that there’s still folks who have been left out of this economy, and we have to figure out a way to let them in,” she says.
The campaign also says O’Rourke will address a signature issue: gun violence. O'Rourke has proposed a mandatory buyback of AR-15-style firearms -- one of the most far-reaching Democratic proposals to deal with mass shootings. And his roots are in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman reportedly motivated by anti-immigrant bigotry killed 22 people in August. Authorities say last year’s shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was similarly motivated. Accused gunman Robert Bowers reportedly targeted Jews based on their support for refugees.
“Both El Paso and Pittsburgh went through really similar tragedies – these horrific acts of terror [that] were both inspired by hateful rhetoric,” said Cavalier.
She also predicted that O’Rourke would discuss his support for impeaching President Trump, who has acknowledged discussing Biden with officials in Ukraine, who rely on the U.S. for foreign aid. That disclosure late last week has renewed Democratic calls for impeachment, and Cavalier notes O’Rourke first called for the step two years ago “when he was running for Senate in Texas [against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz] – which as folks pointed out back then, probably wasn’t the most popular thing that you could say in Texas.”
O’Rourke’s visit will be the second by a presidential candidate in as many weeks: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the area last week, and he’s the fifth candidate to stop here this year. O’Rourke polled just 1 percent of Democratic support in a Franklin & Marshall College poll this summer, but his campaign has highlighted his willingness to compete across the map. Last month, it boasted of being the first campaign to visit Bland County, Va., where Trump garnered more than 80 percent of the vote.
“We want to make sure that everyone feels like they are included this campaign,” said Cavalier. “We’re writing no one off.”