San Antonio-based attorney Mikal Watts will announce this morning that he is pulling out of the race for U.S. Senate, the Guardian has learned.
Watts, a Democrat, made calls to close supporters early this morning to explain his decision. He cited family reasons.
One of those Watts called was state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, one of the first lawmakers to endorse him.
"Mikal called this morning, around 7 a.m., and told me he was pulling out of the race. He cited family reasons," Hinojosa said. "Mikal is very close to his kids and he has never held public office before. It can take a lot out of you."
Watts is married to his wife of 14 years, Tammy, and they have three children, Taylor, age 13; Hailey, age 11; and Brandon, age 9.
"While I think Mikal would have beaten Senator Cornyn, I respect his decision to put family first," Hinojosa added.
Watts is to make a formal announcement later today. I'll have more at that time. In the meantime, best of luck to Mikal Watts in the future.
UPDATE: That was quick. Here's Watts' statement on his decision to withdraw:
"For the last five months I have been exploring a race for the United States Senate because I believe that our junior senator, John Cornyn, has let Texas down and is more concerned with his cronies and friends in Washington than with what's best for Texas.
"After spending the last several months putting everything into this campaign, I have seen the toll this effort has taken on my young children. For these reasons, my wife and I have made the decision that I will not be seeking the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 2008. I was brought up to believe that public service is a noble endeavor and I will continue to be involved at some level in the future. However, I realize that my time now should be devoted to serving my children so they may grow up in a healthy environment with both parents at home to meet their needs.
"The reasons for creating my exploratory committee still exist. As I have criss-crossed the state and met and talked with tens of thousands of good Texans, it is evident how much the people of Texas want and need a Senator who will fight every day for their interests and not the special interests. We need to elect a new Senator in Texas and I will personally do everything possible to support the Democratic nominee.
"It is hard to express the gratitude I feel for all the support my family and I have received as we have pursued this effort. I know that our vision for the future of Texas is one that all of our friends and supporters share. It's been one of the greatest blessings of my life for their faith in me, and for all of their hard work over the past months. While the decision not to seek the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate has been a difficult one, I know that it is the right one for my family at this time."
UPDATE: And here's a statement from Rick Noriega:
I received a call from Mikal Watts this morning informing me that he has decided to withdraw from the Democratic Primary race for the United States Senate.
As Teddy Roosevelt once said, the credit goes to the man in the arena. And Mikal Watts will always have my utmost respect for standing in the arena and highlighting how John Cornyn has let Texas down, placing political extremists and his financial contributors ahead of the people of Texas.
Of course, this is not the first time Mikal has been in the arena -- he's been a true friend to Democrats in Texas and throughout the nation, and has always had the courage to stand up for his convictions.
Today, Mikal made a very difficult and personal decision to put his family first. That's a reflection of a strong character and a truly grounded leader.
Mikal and I made plans to sit down together in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I'll continue the campaign that we started together and fight for the vision for a better Texas that we continue to share.
UPDATE: Two more statements, then I'm done with those. First, from Rep. Nick Lampson, who at one time was considering a run for the Senate:
"I wish Mikal the very best in his future endeavors. Rick Noriega is a dedicated public servant, a leader, and a soldier who has made enormous sacrifices for our nation. Rick is going to do great things in Washington for Texas."
"The Texas Democratic Party appreciates Mikal Watts' dedication to our state and the value of public service. In the time he campaigned for the U.S. Senate, Mikal made a significant contribution, raising a number of important issues on behalf of the vast majority of Texans who would be better served by a Senator who works for us rather than the special interests. I respect Mikal's commitment to his family and look forward to working with him in the future to make Texas a better place for all our families."
UPDATE: OK, I lied. One more statement, from Barbara Radnofsky:
Congratulations are in order to Mr. Watts, to Representative Noriega, and to the people of Texas.
I respect Mr. Watts for his decision and effort to step forward and explore, and understand his family-oriented choice announced today.
I support Lt. Colonel Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate. Texas needs his leadership and service. His efforts will also lead the way for those of us who desire to serve the public in elective office.
The announcements today bode remarkably well for Democrats winning in November 2008, and beyond. This will help fundraising and merge the interests and needs of the diverse and expanding Texas Democratic Party. Folks are re-joining the Democrats. I've seen interest and support from Republicans and Independents attending the last eight fundraisers we've hosted this summer and fall. The Republican and Independent support for Democrats is increasing in intensity and generosity. And that is great.