(CN) – Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke officially dropped out of the presidential race on Friday, ending a campaign that struggled for months to break through to voters on a national stage despite the Texas Democrat’s enthusiastic kickoff and early infusion of cash.
“Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully,” O’Rourke wrote in a Medium post published Friday. “My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.”
O’Rourke, an El Paso native who shot to Democratic stardom in his strong but unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz last year, became a liberal firebrand on the campaign trail in 2019. He became a vocal supporter on issues of immigration reform, LGBTQ rights and gun violence in the wake of the Walmart shooting in his hometown.
He grabbed headlines at the Democratic Party’s September debate with his controversial proposal for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. Later that month at a forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, O’Rourke again drew conservative ire by vowing to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose same-sex marriage.
His decision to drop out comes on the same day that fellow Texan Julian Castro announced he had met his campaign’s 10-day fundraising goal of $800,000 that he said was essential to him staying in the race. Castro said the $1 million he raised in October would help him focus on trying to make the next Democratic debates in November and December.
O’Rourke has insisted for months that he would not run for Republican Senator John Cornyn’s seat, and is still expected to stay out of that race, which has attracted high-profile Democrats including state Senator Royce West and former state Senator Wendy Davis.
O’Rourke said Friday that he would work to ensure that the eventual Democratic nominee is successful in defeating President Donald Trump in 2020.
“I can tell you firsthand from having the chance to know the candidates, we will be well served by any one of them, and I’m going to be proud to support whoever that nominee is. And proud to call them president in January 2021, because they will win,” he said.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa called O’Rourke “a fighter, advocate, and leader.”
“Beto O’Rourke has done amazing things for the Democratic Party in Texas, and we look forward to his future,” Hinojosa said in a statement.