Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke has repeatedly cast his mother as a "lifelong Republican" on the campaign trail, touting her support of his campaign, but her voting history and political contributions don't match his rhetoric.
O'Rourke has attempted to use Melissa O'Rourke, who has voted for Republican candidates in the past, to entice Republican women to switch over and support his campaign. While his mother has supported Republicans, O'Rourke acknowledged in a BuzzFeed profile piece back in August that her politics were not as clear-cut as he indicated in his stump speeches, according to CNN.
"I introduce my mom sometimes, and I kid her a little bit, like ‘my mom's a lifelong Republican, but we got her to vote for us in this race.' One day, she came up to me, and she said, ‘You know, that's just not right: I would describe myself as an independent now, not a Republican. Definitely not a Democrat,'" O'Rourke said. "I don't know what the size of that universe is, but anecdotally we're meeting a lot of people who have described themselves that way."
O'Rourke currently represents the state's 16th Congressional District in Congress and is trying to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) in this year's midterms.
CNN's KFile team did a review of Melissa O'Rourke's voting history and political contributions, determining that she largely voted in Democratic primaries in Texas since 2000, but has donated to Republican and Democratic candidates. O'Rourke has nevertheless continued to refer to her solely as a Republican.
Melissa O'Rourke has largely voted in Democratic primaries in Texas since 2000, and she has donated money to candidates from both parties. She donated to Cruz and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, but she also previously donated to the presidential campaign of then-Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in 2007.
Even after his comments in the BuzzFeed News story, O'Rourke continued to tout his mom as recently as on Saturday as a Republican, when he said, "I am the son of a Republican mother who we have convinced to vote for me in this election." O'Rourke has repeatedly made similar comments in speeches, citing his "Republican mother," so much so that the remark has a frequent line of the candidate on the stump and in a press release, according to news reports.
O'Rourke's mother told the KFile team that she has generally been a Republican until recent elections, but she said that she tends to vote for Democrats regionally. She attributed her recent support of the Democratic Party to President Donald Trump, citing his immigration rhetoric and saying he has "no humanity." The KFile team requested her voting record from the El Paso County Elections Department, which showed she voted in Democratic primaries in 15 of the last 17 primary elections, including Democratic party primaries in 2000, 2008, 2012, and 2016. She voted in the Republican Party primary in the 2006 and 2010 midterms.
Chris Evans, O'Rourke's communication director, said Melissa O'Rourke's voter profile is very common in cities like El Paso, saying many people vote in the Democratic primary because it determines candidates in November.
"The primary voting record you are pointing to is common in places that are overwhelmingly controlled by one party," Evans said. "In the case of El Paso, many people vote in the Democratic party primary because the result determines the outcome for that office in November. For example, the winner of the Democratic party primary for Congress will be the next representative and the winner of the Democratic party primary for county judge will be the next county judge."
"Melissa has – with the exception of 2016 – always voted Republican for president," Evans added. "She has always introduced herself as a Republican, though now identifies as an independent or belonging to no party at all. She receives fundraising emails, electronic newsletters, and direct mail fundraising pieces from Republicans because of her past voting history and past participation in their campaigns."
O'Rourke's mother confirmed to Evans that she had never voted for a Democratic president, but when talking with the KFile team, she said she could not remember if she voted for former President Barack Obama when she donated $250 to his campaign.
"You know, I remember Beto was so high on him and telling me all about him. I remember being excited by it and you know, to be very honest with you, I can't tell you if I did or not," she said.
"I didn't vote for him the second time but I can't swear to you I didn't the first. I don't know," she continued.
Melissa O'Rourke has donated over $16,000 to her son's campaign since 2011 and has made other donations for candidates in both parties dating back to 1983, according to CNN.
This year she's given $1500 to Democratic congressional candidate Veronica Escobar, who is running to replace her son. In 2007, she contributed $250 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In 2012, she donated $1000 to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and $250 to Ted Cruz's campaign for Senate. She also donated $125 to Republican Sen. John Cornyn in 2011, in addition to $250 to his joint fundraising committee, Cornyn Majority Committee.
In 1983, she donated $1000 to Ronald Coleman, a Democratic congressman from Texas. She donated another $200 to Coleman in 1990.