Willie Nelson may be one of Texas’ most beloved cultural icons, but the country singer has left many of his Republican fans unimpressed by his support for Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke over Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
On the eve of Election Day, O’Rourke unveiled a new ad set to the tune of Nelson’s famous 1980 track, “On the Road Again.”
The ad features clips of O’Rourke hitting the road and meeting with Texans on the campaign trail, and highlights that the three-term Congressman has visited 254 counties and held 328 town halls in his bid to unseat Cruz.
It also contains footage of Nelson from a September concert in Austin, held in support of O’Rourke’s campaign, which drew over 50,000 attendees.
At one point in that concert, the 85-year-old country music legend even invited O’Rourke on stage to perform and sing “On the Road Again” together.
Nelson also used that concert to unveil a new song, the lyrics of which let little doubt as to where his support lay for the elections.
“Vote ’em out, vote ’em out
“And when they’re gone we’ll sing and dance and shout
“And we’ll bring some new ones in and they will start to show again
“That if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out.”
Nelson is a lifelong Democrat, but many of his Republican fans said they were let down by his support for O’Rourke.
In a statement posted to social media, Nelson’s son Lukas defended his father’s support for O’Rourke.
“My father has always led with his heart — in his life and his music, he’s put his energy toward building a heart-based family and community with music as a cultural glue,” wrote Lukas Nelson.
“Republican or Democrat, he’s always stood for the candidate that best represented his values which include love for thy neighbour no matter what colour or nationality, responsibility with firearms — including some regulation to prevent unnecessary violence — and health care that isn’t owned by private companies who put your health below their profit.”
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Nelson was more straightforward in his response to the controversy.
“I don’t care,” he said on ABC’s “The View.”
“People will sometimes get upset because I’ve got a vote, too,” he told Rolling Stone shortly after he endorsed O’Rourke. “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”
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O’Rourke has managed to raise around twice as money as Cruz in the campaign, but has trailed Cruz in the polls for much of the campaign.
If he manages a shock victory, O’Rourke will become Texas’ first Democratic senator since 1988.