Democratic presidential hopeful and former US Representative for Texas' 16th congressional district Beto O'Rourke speaks to the crowd during a prayer and candle vigil organized by the city, after a shooting left over 20 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 4, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)
Amid tragedy, Beto O'Rourke finds himself back in the spotlight
02:35 - Source: CNN
El Paso, Texas CNN  — 

Beto O’Rourke is skipping a planned trip to Iowa this weekend, as his hometown grieves after the mass shooting here, he told reporters Wednesday.

The former Texas congressman will miss the Iowa State Fair, which Democratic presidential contenders will swarm in the coming days. He will also miss the Wing Ding dinner, a major event for state party officials and activists.

He told CNN he hasn’t decided when he will return to the campaign trail.

He announced his decision to stay home hours before he will lead a protest as President Donald Trump visits El Paso, where police say the suspect in a shooting that left 22 people dead authored a racist, anti-immigrant document .

O’Rourke repeatedly has said Trump bears responsibility for the shooting because of his history of racist comments.

“He’s trying to intimidate this community, to make us afraid of the border, of immigrants,” O’Rourke told reporters Wednesday morning.

O’Rourke attended a memorial at El Dorado High School on Wednesday morning, where he told students that “it is hard to find another place on the planet that is anything like what we enjoy here.”

“We must remind ourselves and tell the rest of the country that we are safe not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and refugees and asylum-seekers … but that very fact is what makes us strong and successful and safe and secure in the first place,” he said.

O’Rourke did not directly answer a question from CNN about whether the best way to implement new gun control laws is for him to run for the US Senate again, this time against Republican Sen. John Cornyn, rather than running for president.

“No part of me right now is thinking about politics, is thinking about any campaign or election. All of me is with and thinking about this community,” he said.
O’Rourke’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, followed up the candidate’s reponse with a statement saying, “Beto is staying in El Paso to support his hometown that was the target of a terrorist attack, inspired by the words of Donald Trump. Now more than ever, this country needs the honest leadership Beto continues to demonstrate – and that is why he running for president.”