O'Rourke lands first congressional endorsement

Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch Democrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices MORE (D-N.Y.) became the first lawmaker to endorse former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall Manchin: 'Beto O'Rourke is not taking my guns away from me' MORE's (Texas) nascent presidential bid on Thursday, lauding the El Paso Democrat's ability to "rise above the toxic division in our politics."

"I’m proud to endorse my friend @BetoORourke for President!" Rice wrote on Twitter. 


The endorsement came hours after O'Rourke announced that he would seek the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2020, ending months of speculation about his political future.

In an early-morning announcement video, the former congressman cast his White House bid as an effort to "unite a very divided country" and signaled that he would make immigration, health care and climate change centerpieces of his campaign.

"The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all and to give it for all of us," he said.

In announcing his candidacy on Thursday, O'Rourke became the second Texan to enter the 2020 race. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has been running for the Democratic nomination since December.

In an email on Thursday morning, shortly after O'Rourke's announcement, Castro's campaign touted a spate of endorsements from 30 Democratic officials in Texas, including two state senators, 17 state representatives and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, a former mayor of San Antonio.

Whether O'Rourke can break through an already-crowded Democratic primary field remains to be seen.

O'Rourke garnered status as a rising political star last year during his Senate bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE (R-Texas). While he ultimately lost that race, he performed better than many observers expected and showed himself to be an adept fundraiser, raking in more than $80 million for his campaign.

But unlike other presidential hopefuls, O'Rourke did little of the traditional legwork to prepare for a campaign. He traveled to Iowa on Thursday, marking his first trip to the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state this year.