WASHINGTON – Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke joined the list of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls on Thursday.
The three-term congressman was relatively unknown before gaining national attention with his competitive campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the red state of Texas. O'Rourke lost by 2.6 percentage points, but the charismatic El Paso native made an impact with Democratic voters in the Lone Star State and beyond.
Though his detractors question whether a failed Senate campaign is a suitable springboard to becoming a major party candidate, O'Rourke's supporters say he has the same indefinable "it" quality that drew voters to former President Barack Obama in 2008.
Here are five interesting facts you might not have known about the 46-year-old who says he was "born" to run for president:
You're probably saying his name wrong
If you pronounce O'Rourke's first name BAY-toe, sorry, you're doing it wrong. But don't worry, you're not alone. Even Cruz often mispronounced his opponent's name during the 2018 campaign. The correct way to say it: BEH-toe, with the emphasis on the first syllable.
"Beto" is a common shortening of the name "Robert" or "Roberto."
Here is an expert demonstration:
O'Rourke has always been called Beto: Here's why
He's punk rock
As an undergraduate at Columbia University (he graduated in 1995 with a degree in English literature), O'Rourke co-founded the band Foss, which took its name from the Icelandic word for waterfall. The group put out an album, "The El Paso Pussycats," in 1993 and toured the U.S. and Canada when O'Rourke was on summer break. (Listen to a couple of tracks here.)
He went on to play with other bands, including Fragile Gang and a punk cover band called The Sheeps. He told NPR he also played with a Rolling Stones cover band called The Stoners.
O'Rourke told NPR that his 2018 Senate campaign had a punk rock feel because the ethos was: "Forget the corporations, the DNC, the playbook. Let's just be people together and tell each other our stories."
Here's a clip Mother Jones found of O'Rourke and The Sheeps covering the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" in 2003:
He's been arrested twice
In 1995, he was arrested for burglary after tripping an alarm on a fence at the University of Texas in El Paso. O'Rourke said it happened while he and his friends were "horsing around." The university declined to press charges.
"We weren't intending to do any harm," O'Rourke told the El Paso Times.
The second arrest was for driving while intoxicated in 1998. It was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program.
"Both incidents were due to poor judgment and I have no excuse for my behavior then," O'Rourke told the Palestine Herald-Press in 2017. "However, since then, I have used my opportunities to serve my community and my state. I'm grateful for the second chance and believe that we all deserve second chances."
He comes from a prominent family
O'Rourke's father Patrick Francis O'Rourke served as a Democratic county commissioner and county judge in El Paso. In the late 90s, he unsuccessfully ran as a Republican in an effort to reclaim his seat as a county judge. Patrick O'Rourke was killed in a 2001 bicycle accident.
His mother, Melissa O'Rourke, operated three Charlotte's Furniture stores in El Paso before closing the last one in 2017. In 2010, Charlotte's Furniture pleaded guilty to accepting cash payments totaling $630,745 from an unidentified customer and then altering receipts to circumvent IRS disclosure laws.
Beto and Amy O'Rourke have three children. Amy's father, William "Bill" Sanders, is a real-estate mogul whose net worth was estimated at about $500 million by Forbes magazine.
While serving on the El Paso City Council in 2006, O'Rourke drew criticism for a plan to seize property under eminent domain in a deal that involved Sanders. O'Rourke eventually recused himself from all votes on the matter.
He's backed legal weed for a decade
O'Rourke was an early advocate of marijuana legalization and in 2009 he introduced a City Council resolution urging Congress to seriously debate the legalization of drugs. In 2011, he and fellow City Council member Susie Byrd published a book about the effects of the drug war, "Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico."
In an email to supporters on Monday, O'Rourke said it was time to "end the federal prohibition on marijuana and expunge the records of those who were locked away for possessing it, ensuring that they can get work, finish their education, contribute to the greatness of this country."
Contributing: Trish Long and Vic Kolenc, El Paso Times
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 things you didn't know about 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke