Texas Democratic Primary Just Got Real

I’ve got a piece up today on a Democratic House primary in El Paso, where former councilman Beto O’Rourke is challenging 16-year incumbent Silvestre Reyes. The kicker is that O’Rourke is an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs who’s clashed with Reyes over federal drug policy; in a border district, the election amounts to a sort of referendum on the Drug War. The current polling of the race, such as it is, has the two deadlocked.

Why is a longtime incumbent facing an early retirement? University of Texas–El Paso professor Gregory Rocha suspected it was partly because Reyes has been kind of lethargic when it comes to defining himself and his opponent.

So right on cue, with election day just six days away, the Reyes campaign has gone what I think you could charitably call “scorched earth”:

The El Paso Times has a handy fact-check of the charges: The DUI came when O’Rourke was 25 (he’s 40 now) and has not seemed to hurt him in his previous races; the “attempted burglary” came when he was in college and according to the candidate consisted of him jumping a fence. The drunken spanking incident happened last June at an El Paso bar. In the grainy footage, O’Rourke is seen dancing, falling on his back, and then being spanked by a female companion. Although O’Rourke was undoubtedly spanked, it’s not clear whether he was intoxicated.

In any event, I’m fairly certain this is the first-ever attack ad to feature the phrase “he was recently videoed publicly intoxicated being spanked.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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