At least, that’s what we were told last week. Maybe it won’t be today but a few days later. In any event, it’s safe to say that expectations are not high right now.
“I would say at this point, he’s not going to run,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
One Democratic operative who spoke on condition of anonymity put the odds at 50-50 but added, “If somebody bet me $50 he’s running, I wouldn’t take it.”
Castro, who still has his admirers, has promised supporters he will announce his decision by the first week of May.
But to many observers, the signs are clear that he is already out of the running — and a lot of it has to do with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Schumer, who sources said had been frustrated by Castro’s indecisiveness, has taken an outsized interest in defeating Cornyn, the former majority whip. Earlier this year, Schumer tried to recruit Beto O’Rourke, who nearly defeated U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018.
When O’Rourke made it clear he was running for president, Schumer interviewed Castro and then summoned Hegar to Washington.
Hegar was bolstered by polling done by the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and Emily’s List, a PAC that supports female pro-choice candidates, that showed her with a wide lead over Castro, according to three sources who had been briefed on the private polling.
Schumer’s stance does not prevent Castro from running, although the leader has made clear that Hegar is his preference, say Democratic sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“I don’t think Schumer was ever for Castro,” one Democratic operative who has spoken privately with the Senate leader told the American-Statesman. “He felt it was a mistake for both Castro brothers to run. Schumer never did think that (Joaquin) Castro was the right choice.”
“A lot of us wish he would decide,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic PAC. He added that many Texas Democrats were “scratching their heads” at the delay.
“This is a cold-blooded business. In Texas, it’s a $50 million proposition to run for U.S. Senate,” he said
Donors are already deciding. Aimee Cunningham, an Austin philanthropist and Democratic contributor, told the American-Statesman that she has been a longtime Castro supporter but supported Hegar, as well, in 2018, and urged the military vet to run for office again.
“I told Joaquin that if MJ ran for Senate, I would have to enthusiastically support her,” Cunningham said.
Latino lawmakers who want a Hispanic candidate near the top of the ballot in Texas, in a presidential year with anticipated high turnout, are particularly upset by Castro’s delay.
“Incredibly indecisive, and you can use that,” said U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, by text, adding that he was “exasperated” with Castro.
Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston, said, “The line between caution and indecisiveness can be hammered pretty thin, and it is pretty much see-through at this point for Castro.”
This story came out the same day as others that were asking the same questions, but I didn’t see it at the time, and this one has more details. I’m sure people won’t be thrilled with Chuck Schumer’s involvement, but at least he’s invested in beating John Cornyn. The bottom line is that the story about Castro being “all but certain” to be in for Senate was in mid-March, more than six weeks ago. Usually, when you see a story like that, it’s followed up withing a couple of days with something official. It means a decision has been made, and the announcement will happen once the last few loose ends have been tied up. It doesn’t take this long. I have no idea what was happening here, but it’s hard to escape the impression that the initial story, which I presume was the result of some authorized person giving the big-picture view so that the ground could be laid for the forthcoming announcement, came before the decision was made. Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. Whatever the case, something went wrong.
None of this means Joaquin Castro can’t or shouldn’t announce for Senate. He’s lost most of the advantage he would have had if he had followed the expected script and timetable, but he’s still an incumbent Congressman with a built-in base and some establishment support awaiting him. Give him a splashy rollout of his own, followed by strong fundraising for the rest of the quarter (and going forward), and this little episode will fade away. I would advise being quick about it, but after that there’s plenty of time to get back on track. It still fundamentally comes back to what Joaquin Castro wants to do, and when he’s prepared to tell us about it.