Beto O’Rourke and Rev. Al Sharpton spoke on Friday, a source familiar with the interaction told BuzzFeed News, as O’Rourke considers a presidential campaign and courts allies of Barack Obama.
O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a Senate race in November to Ted Cruz, initially said that he had no intention of running for office in 2020, but at a town hall after the election said he wasn’t ruling it out.
Rachel Noerdlinger, a spokesperson for Sharpton, confirmed the news that O’Rourke and Sharpton spoke Friday. “They spoke and agreed to meet within the next couple of weeks and they had a great conversation,” she said.
Sharpton has been a force in Democratic primary politics, drawing major candidates to the annual convention of the National Action Network in New York. (In 2007, it was a coming out party of sorts for Obama.) The agenda for the call itself was not clear, and the spokesperson declined to comment further. But the news comes after the Washington Post reported that O’Rourke met with Obama in his post-presidential office on Nov. 16. Obama did not endorse O’Rourke in his Senate race, and O’Rourke insisted at the time that while Obama would go down as one of the greatest presidents, he was more focused on Texas.
Friday’s call also comes after former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick — once thought to be the favorite potential contender among former Obama staff and top advisers — revealed last week that does not intend to run for president. Patrick has said he would be open to supporting other candidates in 2020, and O’Rourke’s overture to Sharpton, a former close Obama adviser, is another sign that O’Rourke is interested in winning over support from Obamaworld. He’s already had positive signs in that regard — Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama aide who now cohosts the popular Pod Save America podcast, laid out “The Case For Beto O’Rourke” at the end of November.
O’Rourke’s Senate race captured the imagination of Texas and the country, and the 46-year-old congressman’s candidacy helped reinvigorate the Democratic Party with yet another self-grown superstar in the Clinton and Obama mold. One of his most viral moments came when O’Rourke said that NFL players kneeling to highlight systemic oppression and police brutality were, in fact, patriotic and in the spirit of protesters who sacrificed to ensure a better union for all Americans. The viral clip endeared him to black Americans, including prominent figures like LeBron James, who wore a Beto for Senate hat to a Lakers game, and Houston native Beyoncé, who eventually endorsed his Senate campaign.