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Willie Nelson to headline rally for Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke

Griffin Connolly, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Entertainment News

WASHINGTON -- Willie Nelson may be getting up there in years, but there's always time for firsts.

And for the first time ever, the 85-year-old country music star will take the stage to perform on behalf of a political candidate.

Nelson is the headline act for a rally in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 29 for Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic Texas Senate candidate who has gained national fame for his punk rock past and a viral video of him defending NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

"My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed," Nelson said in a statement, Rolling Stone reported. "Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine."

To be certain, Nelson has performed in a number of political settings, including on the White House's South Lawn for President Jimmy Carter back in 1980. And much, much more recently -- as in, July -- Nelson brought O'Rourke onstage to play guitar as he finished his set list with the classics "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

But this month will mark the first time he has strummed and sung directly for a political candidate.

Nelson has received backlash from many of his fans on Facebook for dipping into politics.

O'Rourke is mounting a grassroots, underdog campaign in a traditionally solid red state with rapidly changing demographics where Democrats see future inroads.

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O'Rourke trailed by 4 points in a recent poll to incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who also has a national following after unsuccessful primary bids for president in 2012 and 2016.

President Donald Trump won the Lone Star State by 9 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Republican Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

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