The Latest: O’Rourke: US must reckon with systematic racism

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — The Latest on Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke (all times local):

8:40 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says it is important to confront the truth about how black people have been treated in the U.S.

At a house party in Muscatine, Iowa, on Thursday night, O’Rourke said the United States needs to recognize that systematic racism exists in the country.

Other Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, have spoken of the need for the U.S. government to reckon with and make up for centuries of stolen labor and legal oppression. Some have talked about using tax credits and other subsidies as reparations, which O’Rourke did not mention Thursday.

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3:30 p.m.

A top Iowa statehouse leader says he plans to caucus for Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and would endorse him if the Texan asks for it.

State Rep. Brian Meyer, who serves as an assistant minority leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, said in an interview Thursday: “I get energy from him like I got the energy from Barack Obama.”

Meyer says he likes that O’Rourke comes across as moderate and feels a personal connection to him. He says, “He had a punk band. I was in a punk band.”

He added that the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates was strong, but “sometimes it comes down to things that are intangibles.”

Also endorsing O’Rourke: New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who became the fourth House Democrat, and third moderate, to do so.

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1:40 p.m.

Beto O’Rourke says he’s open to remaking the structure of the Supreme Court so that it better reflects “the diversity we are composed of” as a country.

Speaking at a crowded coffee shop in Burlington, Iowa, O’Rourke said the U.S. is now so polarized that it might be time to have five Republican justices and five Democratic justices, rather than the current nine appointed for life.

He further suggested that both of those groups of five could then select five more justices.

The former Texas congressman also said he’d be open to supporting term limits for the justices, “so there’s a more regular rotation through there.”

O’Rourke on Thursday joined the crowded field of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination and is making his first-ever trip to Iowa.

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12:50 p.m.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke is starting to win endorsements from former House colleagues, as he kicks off his presidential campaign.

Endorsing O’Rourke hours after he entered the race and headed to Iowa for the first time was Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, whose swing district includes downtown Orlando.

O’Rourke also picked up the endorsement of Rep. Kathleen Rice, who went with the Texan over a fellow New Yorker and presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar also endorsed him. Escobar won O’Rourke’s safely Democratic seat in El Paso when he left Congress to run for Senate last year.

O’Rourke spent three terms in the House before losing narrowly to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in November.

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11:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump is welcoming Beto O’Rourke to the Democratic primary race with faint praise.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Thursday, Trump says of the Texas congressman: “Well, I think he’s got a lot of hand movement.” Then he added: “Is he crazy or is that just how he acts?”

O’Rourke announced he was entering the race Thursday, joining a vast pool of Democrats hoping to take on Trump in 2020. For his part, Trump said he was ready for anyone.

Asked if he was more threatened by O’Rourke or former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump said: “whoever it is I’ll take him or her on.”

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8:45 a.m.

Beto O’Rourke has begun campaigning in his 2020 presidential bid with his first trip to Iowa.

The former Texas congressman announced his White House run Thursday morning and stopped later in a coffeeshop in Keokuk (KEE’-uh-kuhk), Iowa. He promised to offer the kind of bipartisan, optimistic vision for the future that helped him nearly upset Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in deeply red Texas last November.

O’Rourke told the Iowa crowd: “I could care less about your party persuasion, your religion, anything other than the fact that, right now, we are all Americans.”

His comments were carried live on several cable television networks, something other Democrats in the already crowded White House field haven’t had.

O’Rourke has three days of campaign events in Iowa planned and has promised to travel the country listening to would-be voters.

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5 a.m.

Former congressman Beto O’Rourke is running for president.

The 46-year-old announced his 2020 Democratic primary bid Thursday with an online post. After months of teasing a bid, he’s finally, formally hoping to turn buzz from a close loss in Texas’ 2018 Senate race into a White House try.

O’Rourke nearly upset Sen. Ted Cruz. Since then, his blend of Kennedy-esque looks, easygoing charisma and bipartisan optimism has helped his national political star burn brighter.

Democrats have long dreamed that a booming Hispanic population could eventually flip Texas blue and transform the electoral college, making the Republican path to the presidency all but impossible.

O’Rourke’s home-state appeal may not prove to be enough to make Texas competitive, however, as the Democrats try to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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