At the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the two political rivals posed for a photo with students who witnessed the chance encounter. It was the first time O’Rourke and Cruz had seen each other since their heated race for the Senate ended.
O’Rourke congratulated the Republican on his re-election, then the two discussed the future, according to a witness.
Tiffany Easter, who saw the moment unfold, said that O’Rourke, a progressive Democrat, first approached Cruz to congratulate him.
“It was the first time they had seen each other since the election and the entire conversation was both of them talking about how they could move forward TOGETHER,” Easter, a student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government, wrote in a Facebook post.
“The Texas Senate race was one of the most contested and most watched in the nation. Today we literally watched them come together,” she added. “This is America. This is wholesome. ... The humility y’all. I’m in awe.”
In an interview with CNN, Easter said the entire encounter was “pretty short and sweet.”
O’Rourke “stands up, shakes [Cruz’s] hand and says, ’Hey, congratulations on re-election. Just wanted to say that to you, and if there’s anything I can do to help in the future, please let me know,” Easter recalled the Texas Democrat as saying, adding, “Cruz responded in the same way.”
“We all just kind of sat there and thought, ‘This isn’t happening,’” Easter said. “We asked them to take a picture with us. They were both more than happy to do so.”
O’Rourke’s bid to take Cruz’s seat in the Senate gained national attention as the progressive Democrat rallied unprecedented support from the left in the deep-red state.
And while O’Rourke tried to appeal to independent and conservatives voters in Republican-leaning counties across the state, his campaign fell short and Cruz won re-election by a narrow margin.
Easter said Cruz and O’Rourke’s brief meeting at the Houston airport was a much-needed moment after a contentious midterm election.
“A simple three-minute conversation and a photo has sparked so much positivity, I think it just echoes what American is craving, which is positivity, bipartisanship, working together,” Easter told CNN.