Nelson performed his musical call to action at Austin’s Auditorium Shores after singing several of his hits, including “On The Road Again” with O’Rourke, who seeks to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the November midterm elections.
Nelson, who announced his endorsement of O’Rourke earlier this month, belted out the lyrics to “Vote ’Em Out,” which stresses the importance of Americans’ right to vote.
“The biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box / If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out,” the song says.
Roughly 55,000 people attended the rally, O’Rourke’s campaign told the Austin American-Statesman, citing an estimate from the venue. The Austin Police Department declined a request for comment on the crowd’s size.
It wasn’t the first time O’Rourke has performed with Nelson. He joined the music legend on stage a couple months ago at the singer’s annual Fourth of July Picnic in Austin.
Cruz, an unwavering conservative who failed in his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, had been heavily favored to win a second Senate term at the start of this year’s campaign. But O’Rourke, a House member from El Paso, has generated widespread enthusiasm for his candidacy and pulled close to Cruz in several polls.
Nelson has taken heat from some of his conservative fans over his support for O’Rourke. His link on his Facebook page to a news article announcing his plans to headline O’Rourke’s rally on Saturday prompted some angry responses.
One fan griped on Nelson’s page that “If thats true [then] I’m done after 45 years with the Red Headed Stranger.”
“By Willie, that smoke has finally got you!” the fan added, apparently referring to Nelson’s longtime use of marijuana.
Nelson has shrugged off the naysayers.
“I don’t care,” Nelson said earlier this month on ABC’s “The View. “You know, they’re entitled to their opinions and I’m entitled to mine. ... Everybody has a right to an opinion.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Auditorium Shores provided a crowd estimate to the Austin American-Statesman. In fact, O’Rourke’s campaign provided the number, citing the venue’s estimate.