Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke revealed on Thursday that he will run for president, saying that the crises in our country “will either consume us or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America.” The 46-year-old announced his 2020 candidacy in a video shot from El Paso, where he’s served on the City Council from 2005 to 2011. He was sitting next to his wife Amy Sanders O’Rourke.
“Amy and I are happy to share with you that I am running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America,” he says in the clip. “This is a defining moment of truth for this country.”
Amy O’Rourke supported her husband of fourteen years during his unsuccessful 2018 Senate run against Ted Cruz, often featuring in his popular Instagram and YouTube videos from the campaign trail. And while Beto has become known for his many live chats and streams on social media (he once Instagrammed his dentist appointment), Amy has a relatively quiet digital presence. Her Instagram account is set to private and her last tweet is from 2014.
She comes from a wealthy and powerful El Paso family, and is a longtime educator in the city. She’s lived in Guatemala and, for a time, ran her husband’s Web-design company. Here’s what you need to know about Amy O’Rourke.
She is an educator
Amy is a director at CREEED, an El Paso nonprofit that promotes educational attainment and opportunity. She started her career as a kindergarten educator in Guatemala after graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts. She moved to El Paso in 2004, and began working with Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, a health and human services organization, where she created their dual-language preparatory school serving children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
In January 2013, she took over the Web-design company her husband founded, Stanton Street Technology Group, after he was first elected to Congress. She sold her stake in the company in 2017, during Beto’s Senate campaign, according to The El Paso Times.
She has been married to Beto for 14 years and they share a home in El Paso
The couple met in 2004 when Beto was running for El Paso city council. Amy was in town “to bide her time while she applied to grad school, but then met O’Rourke,” according to Vanity Fair. They went on a date to Juárez, a Mexican city just south of El Paso, to drink at the legendary Kentucky Club, which claims to have invented the margarita. “He was giving me reasons 1 through 10 of why I needed to stay in El Paso,” Amy O’Rourke told the magazine. “And I quickly learned that he just is an ultimate El Paso salesman.”
Beto won the city council race, and they wed a few months later.
Today, they live in a 114-year-old El Paso home where, more than a century ago, Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa met U.S. Army Gen. Hugh Scott to discuss stopping Mexico’s civil war along the border. They have three children.
Her father is a wealthy real-estate magnate
Amy’s father, Bill Sanders, has a net worth of around $500 million, according to Forbes. Her mother, Louann Feuille Sanders, is a member of a prominent El Paso family.
Bill reportedly made millions as the “Godfather of the REITs” (real-estate-investment trusts) in Chicago, according to Vanity Fair. In 2001, he gave a talk about forming a new company in El Paso called Paso del Norte, which would focus on the downtown area. As local reporter David Crowder told the magazine, Bill was, “sort of a great white father coming into town, with all this money and ideas for the big-boxing of El Paso.”
As a city councilman, Beto supported a development plan crafted by Bill to gentrify downtown El Paso by replacing an impoverished barrio to build a Walmart or Target. When it became known that Bill would profit from the plan, the city of El Paso opened an ethics investigation, according to Vanity Fair. Beto was cleared of wrongdoing, and the plan ended after the economy tanked in 2008—but some El Paso residents haven’t forgiven him.
“Mr. O’Rourke was basically the pretty face of this very ugly plan against our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” David Dorado Romo, a local historian, told The New York Times in 2018.
Three years later, Beto was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, beating eight-term incumbent, Silvestre Reyes. Although Beto was “loath” to use attack ads during the campaign, Vanity Fair reports that an outside super PAC underwritten by Bill paid for $240,000 in TV ads that painted the Reyes as “corrupt and thereby indirectly lumped him in with several prominent El Paso politicians who had gone to prison for corruption.”
According to The Houston Chronicle, “Sanders and his business associates have boosted O’Rourke’s political career with generous donations.”
The couple took time off from politics after the Senate election
After Beto’s near-miss 2018 Senate run propelled him to political stardom, he and Amy stepped out of the spotlight to focus on their three kids.
“After the election, our immediate need was to be together as a family and to really finish out the congressional term, which I know was incredibly important to Beto,” Amy told The El Paso Times. “But then to just like sleep, eat healthy and really give our family the attention that we had not had together for a long time. And so it was hard to even process, thinking about what the next steps could potentially be, I would say, well into January.”
In the following months, they went to baseball practices, basketball games, science fairs, and a hiking trip to the Franklin Mountains.
In January, they began discussing a presidential run.
The decision to run for 2020 was a joint one
The couple has said they make all of their decisions together. “We really want to come to conclusions together. And if we can’t both get there, then we just won’t do it. Whether that’s, you know, having Whataburger for dinner, or whatever it is,” Beto told The El Paso Times.
They reportedly didn’t tell their children about the possibility of a presidential run, instead allowing them to come to their own conclusions. Their daughter Molly, 10, was the first to say her dad should run.
“I was driving her to school in early, mid-February, and she said, ‘You know, if Dad’s going to run for president, he better get started because he was already running for Senate at this point (in 2017),’ ” Amy O’Rourke told the newspaper.
Their sons Ulysses, 12, and Henry, 8, followed.
“They’re excited,” Beto said. “I wasn’t all the way expecting that to be the case, given how hard the last campaign was for everybody.”