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After Contentious Debate, Presidential Hopefuls Castro And O'Rourke Hold Dueling Rallies In Austin

Michael Minasi for KUT
Democratic presidential hopefuls Beto O'Rourke (left) and Julián Castro both held rallies in Austin on Friday."

Two days after Democratic presidential candidates Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke squared off over immigration on a debate stage in Miami, the Texans held simultaneous campaign events less than a mile from each other in downtown Austin.

Castro, the former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, was at an event Friday hosted by the Texas Democratic Party at Cheer Up Charlies. 

He had been struggling to gain attention in the race, lagging behind O’Rourke, and others, in early polls. But a strong debate performance Wednesday has invigorated his campaign, he said.

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro holds a rally at Sheer Up Charlies in downtown Austin on June 28, 2019.
Credit Michael Minasi for KUT
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro holds a rally at Sheer Up Charlies in downtown Austin on Friday.

“We had our best fundraising day, by far, in the 24 hours after the debate,” Castro told reporters Friday evening. “So this campaign has great momentum.”

Castro told supporters he’s going to continue introducing himself to new voters, because his campaign hadn’t been getting a lot of attention before this week’s debate.

“I showed that I can go in there and make my case,” he said. “When I am challenged I can hold my own. That’s what we are going to have to do and more if we are going to beat Donald Trump.”

Destiny Castillo drove from San Antonio to see Castro on Friday. She said she’s still trying to figure out who she will vote for in the Democratic primary. Originally, Castillo said, she was supporting O’Rourke.

But Castro’s debate performance has her reconsidering.

“I feel like he really did his homework and he really showed up,” Castillo said. “I kind of want to go off of that and see what else he has to say.” 

But other O’Rourke supporters said they are standing by the former El Paso congressman.

Rachelle Lefever said she thought O’Rourke was “a little bit out of his comfort zone,” but was able to get some good points across during the debate.

“I feel like he was kind of unfairly treated and attacked by some of the opponents,” she said. “You can tell, like especially Castro, he was premeditated. He was there for blood, essentially.”

Credit Michael Minasi for KUT
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke talks to the crowd at Scholz Garten in Austin on Friday.

O’Rourke, who met with voters just down the road from Castro at Scholz Garten on Friday, said he’s got to “do a better job of making sure … [to] correct the record,” moving forward.

“I want to make sure that on any given issue, we’re able to clearly and cleanly lay out our case,” he told reporters. “It’s a little tough when you’ve got nine other people talking over you at times."

Marcella Cannatti, an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin who came to see O'Rourke, said she likes that he has been taking things in stride.

“A lot of people are criticizing the fact that he didn’t really defend himself and he wasn’t able to hit back, but I think that’s something I really admire about him,” Cannatti said. “He kind of stays above water and tries to take the upper road.”

O’Rourke said he didn’t know whether it was a coincidence that his event was scheduled around the same time as Castro’s, which had been scheduled before O’Rourke announced he’d be coming to Austin.

“I’m not running against any of those other candidates,” O’Rourke said. “I’m running for this country.”

Giulia Hjort contributed reporting for this story.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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