Seems like it’s just a matter of time before Beto O’Rourke announces his Senate campaign


Re. Beto O’Rourke

Eyeing a takedown of Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke may be on the verge of declaring his candidacy for a 2018 Senate race, the next best gauge whether Texas Democrats are enjoying the resurgence they claim.

O’Rourke, D-El Paso, made national news last week along with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, when they drove together to Washington in a rental car after an East Coast storm canceled many flights.

Their “bipartisan congressional town hall,” intended to show how members of different political parties can get along, drew thousands of followers via live streaming as the two talked about substantive matters, joked with one another and even joined in song along the way.

The congressmen announced Wednesday that the San Antonio to D.C. trip will become an annual event – to be called the Congressional Cannonball Run – and that other bipartisan teams from Congress will be invited to join.

Along with O’Rourke, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is considering the 2018 Senate race and next month intends to make known his decision.

The whole O’Rourke-Hurd bipartisan road trip thing made me roll my eyes, but it accomplished the important purpose of generating a lot of positive attention for O’Rourke, which is no small thing for an otherwise not well known politician from El Paso who wants to mount a statewide campaign. Name recognition is a big deal, and getting that much publicity for free speaks well to his ability to campaign.

The Statesman has a longer profile of O’Rourke, which again speaks to his ability to get noticed. I’m going to focus here on the inevitable “can he win?” stuff.

Texas Democrats last won statewide office 1994. Cruz was elected to the Senate by a margin of 16 percentage points after a come-from-behind victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a GOP primary runoff. Cruz quickly became the most popular Republican in Texas, but his strong but failed presidential bid and his up-and-down relationship with candidate and now-President Donald Trump have brought his approval ratings down to earth.

Meanwhile, this is about the time in the political cycle when Democrats succumb to hope over experience.

In June 2013, Democratic hearts soared when then-state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth filibustered abortion legislation, drawing national attention and social media acclaim that led her to a run for governor in which she raised an enormous amount of money on the way to a 20-point drubbing.


Trump’s epic unpredictability adds an element of uncertainty for 2018 in Texas as everywhere else and, for Democrats, an urgency to harness all the anti-Trump energy at the grass roots.

“Talk to anybody who works in politics in Democratic and progressive circles in Texas,” said Jeff Rotkoff, a veteran Democratic political strategist who is now director of campaigns for the Texas AFL-CIO. “You would get near unanimous agreement with the statement that interest in political participation by average folks who have not participated in politics in the past is through the roof, and it’s impossible not to connect that to Trump.”

The state Democratic Party says it finds itself deluged with unusual interest by potential candidates at every level, and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said that even the possibility of an O’Rourke-Castro contest does not distress him.

“Truthfully, after so many years having a difficult time getting strong candidates to run for the U.S. Senate, it’s a great problem to have,” Hinojosa said.

“I think it’s a healthy thing that both of them feel that they would seriously consider seeking the nomination for the U.S. Senate because they think that Ted Cruz is beatable and because they believe that the atmosphere that is being created in Texas and all across America by the Trump phenomenon is going to make a better atmosphere for Democrats in 2018,” Hinojosa said. “Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.”

O’Rourke said he has been buoyed by recent visits to Fort Worth, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Austin, Killeen, Waco, College Station, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo, Houston, Dallas and any number of smaller town in between, often meeting with veterans’ service organizations. O’Rourke serves on the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees.

Midland, Odessa, Big Spring and Abilene were on the schedule for this weekend.

I’ll address this in more detail in a separate post. For now, focus on the assertions that interest in political participation by folks who had not previously been terribly engaged is way up. The May elections may give us a bit of data to measure that, though we won’t really know until next year. I think we can all agree that getting people more engaged and involved is the first step towards getting more people to vote next year, and any chance Beto O’Rourke or Joaquin Castro – or Mike Collier or anyone else who runs statewide or in one of those target districts – has of being elected starts with that.

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6 Responses to Seems like it’s just a matter of time before Beto O’Rourke announces his Senate campaign

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Every thing is national, that is what drives politics. Republicans/People don’t have Democrats to hate at the Hill.

  2. Kris Overstreet says:

    Ugh. Democratic fetishism for compromise and bipartisanship is a large chunk of what got us here in the first place. Any Democratic candidate whose main message is “Bipartisanship!” loses my vote.

  3. brad m says:


    If you can’t stomach bipartisanship you’d getter take a warm coat and plan on staying out in the electoral cold for a very, very long time here in Texas.

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    While I rarely agree with Brad, he’s right on this. There are all kinds of things that could be bipartisan, and could be multi-partisan, if we had viable 3rd parties. Remember Bill White’s mayoral campaign? Time traffic lights? Get Houston moving? If you were a Republican, should you oppose the timing of traffic lights, because Bill White came up with the idea, or would you agree that idea is worthy, and support it? Mayor Turner fixing potholes? Should Libertarians and Pubs take umbrage to that? Heck no, we don’t want those potholes patched!

    Remember when Reagan gave amnesty to the undocumented? Should Dems have opposed that, because it was the hated Reagan that did it? There are always going to be things to disagree about, and arguments about where limited tax dollars should be allocated to, but there are also always going to be things that can be agreed on.

  5. Jen says:

    Republicans take everything that Dems give them, and return nothing but scorn and embarrassed laughter. That is the current definition of bipartisanship. Remember Obama’s ‘negotiations’?

  6. mollusk says:

    Being bipartisan is fine so long as a willingness to talk and listen doesn’t translate into a willingness to get rolled. Pushing popular things that are hard to oppose is a good place to start – it seems to have helped others. (Exhibit 1: The R habit of being really, really good at naming things)

    Texas Ds also need to become comfortable with being recognized as such in public – a “coming out” process, if you will. There are signs of this happening. I work in some pretty conservative spheres (I’m a construction law specialist and Rodeo volunteer) and have never been particularly worried about other people knowing my political opinions. Recently I’ve had more conversations with people approaching me and quietly opening up about how we agree. It’s pretty rewarding to encourage people to stop seething in silence.

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