What about Royce?

Gromer Jeffers examines the question of whether State Sen. Royce West will jump into the Democratic primary for US Senate in 2020.

Sen. Royce West

For several months, there’s been speculation that Democrats, against the wishes of some party leaders and donors, will have a competitive contest for the party’s Senate nomination.

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, the Democratic Party’s 2006 nominee for governor, is considering running. Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards is also contemplating a campaign, according to numerous Democrats.

Three mostly lesser-known Democrats are already running: Michael Cooper, Sema Hernandez and Adrian Ocegueda.

But the most intriguing potential candidate is state Sen. Royce West of Dallas, who has contemplated statewide campaigns before. He’s now weighing running for his party’s Senate nomination.

West has not spoken publicly about his plans and has shrugged off questions about the timing of his decision. But he’s been making the rounds in party circles, getting pledges from colleagues in the Legislature and testing whether he can raise the money needed not only to get past [[MJ] Hegar, but also beat Cornyn.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said West and Edwards would be formidable opponents for Hegar because they have strong Democratic vote bases in Dallas and Houston. Jones added that West is more of a centrist, which would help him against Cornyn.

The prospect of a contested Senate primary signals that Democrats are entering a new era in Texas politics. They don’t have to find sacrificial lambs to fill out candidate slates.

“We’re at a point where a credible Democrat may not want to give Hegar a free ride,” Jones said.

There are several reasons this may be the year West takes the plunge. It’s kind of now or never. At age 66, his window for a Washington career is closing. And the changing face of Texas means voters could prefer other emerging politicians in future election cycles. West wouldn’t have to give up much to make the run. He was re-elected last year and won’t be up again until 2022, so he wouldn’t have to surrender his Texas Senate seat. In politics, there’s nothing more sought after than a free look at a campaign for higher office. All that would be at stake is pride.

The longtime Texas lawmaker would also come into the Democratic Party contest with the ability to win — and win big — in North Texas. No other candidate can boast such a launching pad. And he’ll be strong in other parts of the state, particularly where black voters are influential, such as Houston and East Texas. West’s challenge would be garnering support where he’s not well-known, which is most of the state. And he’ll have to prove that he can raise tens of millions of dollars, while captivating the fancy of Texas voters.

Hegar is out there campaigning now – she was just in Houston, at an event I was unable to make. Bell has put out some fundraising emails – I got one in my inbox a few days ago. I have no idea what Amanda Edwards is doing, but like Bell she has not said anything formal. As for West, he’s a good State Senator and he’d for sure start out with a sizable base in a Democratic primary. I’ll be honest, I’d be more excited about him if he’d been the first one to jump in, or if he’d run for Governor or Lt. Governor in 2018. But as I’ve said before, I’m happy for there to be a competitive primary. We need to make sure candidates are out there campaigning hard now, not later on once they’ve won the nomination. An awful lot of people are going to vote in the Dem primary in March, so no one who wants to pursue the nomination can sit around and hope for the best. Whatever Royce West – or Chris Bell, or Amanda Edwards, or anyone else – is thinking about doing, my advice would be to think fast.

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4 Responses to What about Royce?

  1. SocraticGadfly says:

    He ain’t running. He’s taken too many passes, as Gromer (the dean of Dallas political conventional wisdom) notes.

    And, as I know, he has too much baggage: https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2019/06/royce-west-aint-running-against-john.html


    And, one other candidate had her kickoff earlier this month. Whether Sema will do better than 2 years ago, or not, I don’t know. And, I’m not as much a fan as Brains is. But, she is out there and doing stuff.

  2. asmith says:

    Sorry, Royce is running. He’s interviewing staff as I write this. I like MJ but he can beat her with the 2020 version of the Ron Kirk coalition of Dallas, Houston, and east Texas black voters. If he can hold his own in the valley he’ll win the primary. He has let his name be thrown around for various offices but will step up to the plate this time.

    The general will be interesting. The GOP now has major problems in the dfw media market. Cornyn isn’t hated like Cruz but he’s a washington insider.

    Eric didn’t want to wait on Royce or EBJ to move. If he gets the crime rate down or fixes the coming budget crisis, he’s set up for EBJ seat in 2022 if she leaves.

  3. SocraticGadfly says:

    We’ll see, A Smith. And, I doubt he gets the nomination if he does run. First, with Sema in the race, he ain’t getting votes in the Valley. So, scratch that Holding his own part, unless that means splitting 1/3 of Dem votes there with other non-Hispanic candidates.

    On Eric Johnson, those are big ifs, as Stephen Young has already pointed out at the Dallas Observer.

  4. asmith says:

    Royce has enough connections with the electeds in south texas that with strong turnout in dfw plus the black vote in Houston and east Texas he’ll make the runoff and will win it. West texas and the austin media market will be a challenge for Royce. I don’t think Sema or MJ can beat him in a runoff.

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