AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas Republican Party tweet recalling Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke’s past arrests has triggered a partisan mugshot melee online.
The state GOP was chiding O’Rourke for failing to yet settle on dates for a series of debates with Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz when it tweeted an O’Rourke photo on Tuesday night that appeared to be a mugshot from a previous arrest.
Some users responded by posting mugshots of Republican former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted in 2014 on abuse of power charges that were subsequently dismissed by the state Supreme Court.
Others offered the mugshot of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is awaiting trial on securities fraud charges even amid what’s expected to be an easy re-election campaign.
O’Rourke was arrested in his native El Paso in 1995, but misdemeanor burglary charges were later dropped. In 1998, he was arrested there again, this time for driving while intoxicated. That case was dismissed when O’Rourke attended driver classes.
Word of the arrests isn’t new. O’Rourke was a little-known longshot in 2012 when he upset longtime U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary — despite the incumbent producing an ad publicizing O’Rourke’s criminal record.
O’Rourke has talked about both incidents while campaigning for the Senate over the last nearly 18 months. He described being arrested for trying to jump a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso, but said there’s no excuse for drunken driving, which led to his arrest 20 years ago.
Chris Evans, O’Rourke’s spokesman, said the photo in the Republican Party of Texas tweet came from the Reyes ad. He added via email: “Beto talks about his arrests openly and often” and “has since his first campaign ever.” O’Rourke served on the El Paso City Council before winning his current seat in Congress in 2012.
Cruz has never been arrested, but was once ticketed for underage alcohol possession when he was 17 and police stopped him and found unopened beer in his car.
O’Rourke has attracted national attention in his bid to upset Cruz and become the first Texas Democrat elected to statewide office since 1994. Both candidates have said they would like to debate at least five times before November — though their campaigns are still negotiating and have yet to finalize any dates.