Beto O’Rourke Talks Healthcare, Voting Rights, and Immigration in Second N.H Visit

Apr 19, 2019

Beto O'Rourke at a campaign stop in Gibson's Bookstore in Concord.
Credit Dan Tuohy for NHPR

Former Texas Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke made his second trip to N.H. on Thursday, stopping in Derry and Concord before speaking to voters at Nashua Community College.

Some showed up wearing t-shirts with “BETO” scrawled across the chest, but many said they were still sizing up candidates and wanted to hear O’Rourke’s policy proposals.

O'Rourke vowed to sign a voting rights act that would protect same-day and automatic voter registration. And he emphasized his commitment to Latin American immigrants, invoking his hometown of El Paso, on the border with Mexico.

"Their very presence has made us stronger and more successful and yes, safer and more secure," he said, "Helping us to understand and demonstrate that you don't need a $30 billion, 2,000-mile, 30-foot high wall."

This struck a chord with 16-year-old Josh Felo, who came with a group of friends from high school. 2020 will be the first year he can vote, and he's looking for a candidate who will make college more affordable and welcome undocumented.

“I think as a country we should be showing some mercy and love," he said.

In response to a voter whose child has life-threatening allergies, O'Rourke said Medicare for all wasn't feasible, and that the best compromise was to expand access to Medicare, while allowing employers to continue offering private insurance.

Beto O'Rourke at Nashua Community College.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

"Part of my concern is that if we hold out for the perfect, it will become the enemy of the good," he explained. "We will not have enough common ground to get to universal, guaranteed, and high-quality."

This disappointed some voters, but Allison Mangels of Amherst liked O'Rourke's pragmatism.

She says his proposal of Medicare expansion for some - but not all - could be a life-saver for her family members without employer insurance. She's watched them try to decide between which prescriptions to forgo and which surgeries to postpone, based on expense.

"You've got to be kidding me. This is America," she said, "And that shouldn't be."