Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, shown here in a file photo, spoke in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. (Courtesy photo)

Beto O’Rourke touches on local issues at SF campaign event

Presidential hopeful jokes about California’s high-speed rail project

Beto O’Rourke was late for his speech in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.

The former Texas congressman, who held a campaign event in Los Angeles earlier in the weekend, was apparently stuck on an airport tarmac.

“All I could think about was high-speed rail,” O’Rourke quipped when he arrived at the Irish Cultural Center in the Outer Sunset, referring to recently troubled plans to connect the two cities by train.

O’Rourke went on to deliver a 25-minute speech that addressed a range of issues from wealth disparities to affordable health care before answering questions from the audience. In calling for action to stem climate change, he referenced the 2018 wildfires that killed dozens in Northern California.

“For two weeks the people in this community were wearing masks on their face last year because of the smoke that came here from wildfires that raged at historic levels,” O’Rourke said. “For as long as we’ve been keeping records in California and North America these fires defied every single one.”

O’Rourke used the disaster to call for the use of renewable energy and for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

O’Rourke, who narrowly lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in November, is one of the more than 20 democrats running for president in 2020. The crowded field includes U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s former district attorney.

At his campaign event, O’Rourke switched back and forth between English and Spanish. The Irish Cultural Center overflowed with supporters.

O’Rourke condemned President Donald Trump’s separation of families at the Mexico border. He called for young immigrant “Dreamers” to be offered U.S. citizenship.

O’Rourke also spoke out against mass incarceration and gun violence, calling for AR-15s to be banned and kept “on the battlefield.”

When asked about police shootings, O’Rourke said he would use federal funding to hold law enforcement accountable and discussed the racial disparities behind the issue.

“This country fundamentally, structurally has been set up to favor some against others,” O’Rourke said. “Until we address this holistically, stare squarely in the face of the consequences of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow and the continuing suppression we see everywhere in this country, we will not get to the underlying issue… unarmed black men being killed far too often in this country with impunity and without justice.”

San Francisco is not O’Rourke’s last stop in California. He is scheduled to visit the Central Valley and San Diego before returning to Texas for a campaign event at Fort Worth later in the week.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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