EL PASO, Texas - National news media are focusing heavily on Beto O'Rourke's stance on marijuana legalization, despite the fact O'Rourke said he will not champion the issue.
"What I have promised the people of El Paso is I am not running to legalize marijuana. I am not running to make the drug war front-and-center in El Paso's agenda, but when national legislation starts to affect El Paso and the border, I'm going to make sure that our views are represented, and at a minimum, I think most of us in El Paso can agree that what we are doing today is a failure," O'Rourke said Wednesday.
O'Rourke, who defeated 16-year incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the May 29 Democratic primary, said the pot issue is making headlines because "it's something that's sensational for national writers to look at."
He maintains jobs and the economy are his No. 1 priority, but he does not back away from a discussion about marijuana legalization, either.
"If someone is going to ask me my opinion, I'm going to answer it honestly and truthfully. It is a discussion that we as a community need to continue to have, that we as a country need to continue to have. Again, what we're doing today is not working. A trillion dollars spent in the last 40 years, 10,000 people dead in Juarez in the last five years, we imprison more people than any other country on the face of the planet, and yet marijuana is just as available today as it was 40 years ago and $1 trillion ago," he said Wednesday.
On its main political page, the Huffington Post on Wednesday had a picture of the ousted Reyes, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton. The picture read "A Chronic Fail." Chronic is a slang term for high-grade marijuana.
One man was not swayed by the headlines.
"That's what sells papers. Nobody wants to see 'O'Rourke defeats Reyes.' This is their hook to sell papers, to sell the story or however they're going to try to do it," the El Pasoan said.
El Paso's image has already been bruised by the national media. Despite being ranked among the top three safest cities in the country, it's often seen as a dangerous, lawless place because of its proximity to Juarez, Mexico, which is one of the deadliest cities in the world.
When asked if his stance on marijuana legalization will hurt El Paso's already damaged image and would hinder his work if he made it to congress, O'Rourke flatly said no.
"No, what I think I can bring to Washington is a perspective of the border, whether it's immigration, whether it's trade, whether it's bilateral relations with Mexico or whether it's the drug war -- we have a unique perspective on that and we have experience that perhaps no other legislator in congress has," he said.
O'Rourke will face Republican Barbara Carrasco on November 6 to see who will be elected to Reyes' seat.