Two weeks after making national news for a bi-partisan road trip back to Congress, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke is in the news again –announcing for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz.
The road trip – with Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes, 39, whose sprawling West Texas district adjoins O'Rourke's El Paso district – came following a veterans' roundtable discussion in San Antonio. East Coast snowstorms canceled their flights. They were stranded
At O'Rourke's suggestion, they rented a Chevy Impala for the 1,600-mile trip to Washington.
En route, they live-cast their marathon conversation on Facebook Live. And TV networks couldn't resist picking up a rare display of amicability across the very divided political aisle in Congress.
The new friends overnighted briefly in Nashville, and reached the Capitol a half-hour before voting began.
O'Rourke, 44, ((DOB 9/26/72)) is now in his third two-year term representing Texas' western-most House district. He's the first Democrat to announce for his party's nomination to contest the 2018 re-election for which Cruz, 46, ((DOB 12/22/70)) has already announced.
That makes national news because upstart Cruz was the runner-up to now-President Donald Trump in last year's Republican presidential primaries.
It also makes news because observers have figured one of San Antonio's politically ambitious Castro twin brothers might take on Cruz.
Joaquin, 42, ((DOB 9/16/74)) the twin who serves in Congress, has said he's considering the senate run. Like O'Rourke, Castro is in his third House term.
Castro's identical twin Julian served on San Antonio's city council, and then mayor, before being selected in 2014 by President Barack Obama as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Julian, finishing up his memoir, says he is "extremely unlikely" to run for governor or senator in 2018.
A major difference between O'Rourke and Joaquin Castro is that O'Rourke had pledged to serve no more than four terms in the House. Castro hasn't. After a decade in the Texas House, he has enjoyed the promotion to Congress.
So, will he risk his congressional career for an up-or-out race -- in a Red state that hasn't elected a Democrat for the U.S. Senate since 1988 (Lloyd Bentsen), or any statewide office since 1994? He says he'll decide whether to run for the senate, or seek re-election, by the end of April.
Ironically, O'Rourke says Castro gave him the idea to run. Castro said last year he was considering taking on Cruz, O'Rourke told the Texas Tribune -- and that if he didn't, O'Rourke should consider it.
Both men promise a respectful campaign should they both get in.
O'Rourke toured the country with the El Paso rock band Foss during breaks from getting his bachelor's in English Literature from Columbia University in New York.
After college, he worked for internet service providers in New York City. He returned to El Paso in 1998, and co-founded Stanton Street Technology, a company that develops websites and software.
O'Rourke's father Pat, who died in 2001, had been an El Paso County commissioner and then county judge.
In 2005, the younger O'Rourke challenged two-term El Paso city council member Anthony Cobos, 57-43. O'Rourke was re-elected in 2007.
In 2012, he challenged eight-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the primary, and got 50.47 percent over Reyes and three minor candidates. He coasted to victory in November in the reliably Democratic stronghold.
On the day O'Rourke was to announce, Cruz tweeted that "A liberal Democrat is announcing a campaign today to try to turn TX blue" -- with a link to his campaign fundraising site.
O'Rourke, turned off by the amount of time and energy many members of congress spend fundraising, says he'll pass up Political Action Committee contributions. He's banking on a grassroots-up campaign like Bernie Sanders did for the Democratic presidential nomination, using social media and small contributions.
As previous members of the U.S. House, and the Texas Senate, have discovered, running statewide in Texas is a big, big challenge. But there are a few glimmers of hope for Democrats.
First, while Cruz has some strong Tea Party followers, his reputation as being far more interested in himself than anyone else has built some high negatives.
Second, Donald Trump's surprise capture of the White House has energized and unified Democrats – if they can turn their concern into political turnout.
Third, even while Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Texas by 9 percent, that was a considerable improvement over Obama's 15-point loss to Mitt Romney in 2012.
Finally, Democrats hope that with tight-fisted Republicans in control both in Texas and in Washington, Texans may be figuring out they're more interested in government responsibilities for health care, education, transportation and other things than the Republicans calling the shots realize.