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Beto O’Rourke, then a congressional candidate, cheers at a primary night victory party on May 29, 2012. (Beto O'Rourke Campaign/Courtesy under Creative Commons

A campaign to encourage former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke to run for president is kicking off in Nevada and other early presidential primary and caucus states.

In Nevada and California, the so-called “Draft Beto” campaign will be run by Michael Soneff, who most recently served as a communications advisor to the Nevada State Democratic Party during the 2018 midterm election and previously was deputy chief of staff to California Rep. Nanette Barragan. The campaign, helmed by former South Carolina lawmaker and former Democratic National Committee member Boyd Brown and actor Misha Collins, aims to raise $1 million and establish a national grassroots network for a potential O’Rourke campaign.

O’Rourke came to national prominence while challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz during the 2018 midterm election, his youth and dynamism on the campaign trail earning him comparisons to President John F. Kennedy. The former punk rocker turned congressman ran a grassroots campaign in which he raised more than $80 million without accepting any money from corporate or labor PACs and still set the record for the largest-ever fundraising quarter in a single U.S. Senate race.

O’Rourke, who ultimately lost the election to Cruz, has not yet said whether he plans to run for president in a year that will feature a crowded Democratic primary field, though that hasn’t put a damper on the “Draft Beto” campaign. Soneff, in a statement, called O’Rourke a “once-in-a-lifetime candidate.”

“Beto’s Senate campaign shattered expectations because his authentic voice and vision connected with disaffected and disengaged voters,” Soneff said. “Beto is the candidate that Democrats need to beat Donald Trump in 2020.”

In addition to its fundraising goals, the campaign plans to hold rallies and events to drum up support for an O’Rourke campaign. Nate Lerner, the co-founder of “Draft Beto,” said the campaign will build infrastructure to aid O’Rourke in early primary states, including Nevada, California and South Carolina.

“Nothing like this exists for any other candidate, because no other candidate has inspired voters of all backgrounds quite like Beto,” Lerner said.

Other Democratic presidential campaigns have been quietly staffing up across the country, including billionaire Tom Steyer who posted a Nevada state director position on an anonymous LinkedIn page last month. Steyer plans to make an announcement about his "political plans for 2019 and beyond" on Wednesday, according to a press release from his team on Tuesday.

Kristen Orthman, former communications director for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, is on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s team, and the Massachusetts senator has made calls to Nevada officials about a 2020 presidential bid.

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