Marijuana legalization supporter Beto O’Rourke has just defeated prohibitionist 8-term Congressman Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 16th congressional district.
In early 2009, when he was an El Paso city councilman, O’Rourke championed a council resolution calling for a national conversation on legalizing and regulating drugs as a possible solution to the drug cartel violence just over El Paso’s border in Mexico. The mayor vetoed the unanimously-passed resolution and the council was set to override the veto until Congressman Reyes butted in to the debate and threatened that the city would lose federal funding if it insisted on pushing the legalization conversation. The override vote failed, but the national conversation on legalization has only gotten louder and louder.
Now, O’Rourke is all but certain to be the next congressman from the heavily-democratic district. His voice will fill the anti-prohibition void left by retiring Reps. Barney Frank, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.
The O’Rourke victory comes just two weeks after Ellen Rosenblum defeated former U.S. attorney Dwight Holton in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s attorney general, a campaign that largely centered on Holton’s role in cracking down on state-legal medical marijuana on behalf of the Obama administration.
It’s increasingly clear that the era of drug policy reform being a political third rail is over. Supporting clearly failed prohibition policies that cause so much crime, violence and corruption is becoming a political liability.
Watch this anti-O’Rourke attack ad that Reyes put out focusing on the drug policy issue to see exactly what DOES NOT work in politics in 2012: http://vimeo.com/37489037
And see http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/05/border-war-beto-orourke-silvestre-reyes for some more background on the O’Rourke-Reyes race.
This is great news. And despite an attack ad that specifically went after Beto for his legalization viewpoint. An 8-term Congressmen with a power base is defeated by a drug policy reformer.
Things are changing. With Rosenblum in Oregon and O’Rourke in Texas, the notion that being a prohibitionist is the safest political move is changing.
Paul Waldman’s post yesterday — Why Democrats Support the Drug War Status Quo — at The American Prospect seems a bit out of place today.
At the moment, there remains a strong incentive to support the status quo, lest you be targeted in your next race as some kind of hippie-lover. The incentives on the other side, on the other hand, are almost nil. When was the last time somebody lost a race for being too tough on drugs?