HOUSTON (FOX 26) - When you're the centerpiece of an insurgent campaign for the U.S. Senate and you have lost count of the stump stops throughout the Lone Star State, it's hard to measure exactly what moment, what conviction will grab and hold the attention of voters -- until it happens.
"Black men, unarmed; black teenagers, unarmed; and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice," said Congressman Beto O'Rourke at an Aug. 10 town hall meeting.
U.S. Rep. O'Rourke's impassioned defense of NFL players peacefully protesting during the national anthem has drawn millions of eyes and ears to his speech posted on YouTube and other news sites.
The Congressman's contention is that reasonable people can disagree, but objecting to what's wrong in our nation will never be unpatriotic.
"So nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem and ensure that we fix it," said O'Rourke. "That is why they're doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace."
It is a position which comes with political risk, from a candidate who tells FOX 26 News that there's more to be gained with principled candor.
"If nothing else, I owe everyone in this state that I want to serve in the United States Senate my honesty, the courage of my convictions and the conclusions that I've come to," said Rep. O'Rourke on Wednesday at an eastside senior center.
And that resonates with O'Rourke's growing base.
"We got to find honest people," said Mike Alvarez, a self-proclaimed 74 year old Democrat. "This is all about America."
"He takes the praises and the heat, whatever comes," said Karen Provost, who explained that O'Rourke is the first candidate she has ever felt compelled to support financially. "I like that."
O'Rourke's opponent, incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, said NFL players have a right to protest, but their critics have an equal right to condemn those actions.