Why I’m With Beto (And Why My Former GOP Dad Can Be, Too)

A guest piece from Emma Harris, regional organizing director for Beto O’Rourke in Polk County.

When someone asks me why I work for Beto O’Rourke, I end up talking about my dad.

He was an officer in the Navy for over twenty years and was a lifelong, “common sense” Republican. We have never agreed on politics —I remember one particularly brutal eight-hour drive in 2013 that turned into a heated debate about President Obama.

He started losing his allegiance to the Republican Party during the 2015 primary. I could see his dissatisfaction in a party that was dominated by petty politics and backward policies. And when Donald Trump won the nomination —and then the presidency— the distance between my dad and the Republican Party grew.

While the 2016 election eroded my dad’s Republican identity, it was my awakening. I originally went to college to study Applied Math, but four days after graduating in 2017, I went to my first community meeting as an organizer for Mobilize.

I became an organizer because I wanted to get off the sidelines and get in on the ground floor of politics. My job was to bring together grassroots organizations across Virginia to get involved in  “Getting Out the Vote” (GOTV) for state legislative candidates.

It certainly wasn’t easy, but I felt like I was in the right place. We made significant gains in the Virginia State Legislature, and I knew that with every story I listened to and every good conversation I had, I had made a difference.

2017 was my first year as an organizer, and it was also the first time my dad voted for Democrats up and down the ballot. He was disgusted by President Trump’s selfish and cruel actions in the White House and disappointed by elected Republican leaders who had done absolutely nothing to hold him accountable.

Seeing my dad change gives me hope for our country’s future. He is by no means a Democrat, and likely will never identify as one, but he is fed up with the Republican Party’s politics of hate and fear. Both my dad and I know that our country needs a leader that is going to bring this country together.

Beto is that leader. From his first El Paso City Council race to our presidential campaign, Beto has always focused on listening to people and being accountable to the community he represents. Beto knows that the only way we will unify this country is by having conversations with everyone and talking about the issues people care about face to face, not on Twitter.

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He’s exactly the kind of leader my dad would support.

It’s rare to find a candidate who is steadfast in his progressive values and equally committed to listening and serving every single American, no matter who they voted for in 2016. I know that people like my dad, a lifelong Republican, can get behind Beto.

Though my dad certainly disagrees with many of Beto’s policy ideas — which I’m sure I’ll hear about on our next long drive together — I know what matters most to him is electing a candidate focused on unifying this country with a positive, hopeful vision.

I know for people like him, and people like me, standing with Beto means we’re in the right place.


by Emma Harris
Posted 7/28/19

1 Comment on "Why I’m With Beto (And Why My Former GOP Dad Can Be, Too)"

  • Where is the articulate and popular candidate Beto that was featured in the HBO documentary? Ah yes, the one who gave Sen. Ted Cruz a scare? Beto’s Iowa campaign has been disjointed at best – some would call it lackluster and donations have slowed dramatically. Not convinced he was 100% ready for the national stage but only time will tell.

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