According to the Texas Tribune, Texas Democrats already allocating millions of dollars toward a “war room” aimed at taking down Texas Sen. John Cornyn in 2020. Cornyn, meanwhile, already appears scared shitless at the onslaught of Blue Wavery coming for him over a year and a half out from the general election—especially because more than half of Texas supposedly don’t like him, or haven’t the faintest clue who he is.
On Thursday, the Tribune reported on a memo from Texas Democrats saying the party’s war room will seek to “define Cornyn before he defines himself,” a move by the state party that the Tribune characterized as unlike anything done for a U.S. Senate race in recent history.It’s definitely a power move by Texas Democrats, considering that their nascent campaign against Cornyn has yet to have a major candidate at the front of it. After former Rep. and 2018 Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke passed in favor of a presidential run, the party’s top choice appears to be Rep. Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of presidential candidate and former HUD Secretary Julián, who has said he’s “seriously” thinking about running against Cornyn. Additionally, former congressional candidate MJ Hegar and former state Sen. Wendy Davis, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee, have expressed interest in running.
“In 2020, we must seize the opportunity to flip Texas,” says the memo from the state party, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune. It cites recent polling that found Texas “essentially tied” in the 2020 presidential election and that 64 percent of voters do not know or dislike Cornyn. “We cannot wait for the primary dust to settle before we launch our attacks on John Cornyn.”
The project, the memo adds, will “define Cornyn and reveal him for what he is — a coward, afraid of shadows on his right and left.”
The offensive has five fronts: digital, communications, messaging and polling, research, and data and targeting. There will be staff dedicated to the project and coordination with affiliated groups, county parties and activists.
The memo says the effort is “funded, in part, by record-breaking fundraising, including the most successful February totals in Texas Democratic Party history.” The memo does not specify the figures.
Cornyn responded to the initiative Thursday morning on Twitter, saying he hopes Democrats “spend every last penny they get from their out-of-state puppet masters.”
“Only the Democrat party would praise themselves for doing what should be their job,” Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson said in a statement. “Texans won't be fooled by their millions from California and New York.”
The anti-Cornyn campaign comes 11 months before the primary, which is only just beginning to take shape.
Castro says he is seriously considering running for Senate but has given no timetable for making up his mind.
Castro would be the first big-name Democrat to enter the race. Others mentioned as possible contestants include Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar, of Austin, an Afghanistan War veteran who said in an interview that she, too, is considering running. She also noted that she is conferring with Castro. Former state Sen. Wendy Davis said this month that she might run but added that she encourages a Castro candidacy.
Castro, 44, a four-term House member, is the twin brother of Julián Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration housing secretary who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Before entering Congress, Joaquin Castro served five terms in the Texas House. He hasn’t achieved the stature of Cornyn, who rose to No. 2 in the Senate GOP ranks before reaching a term limit for that leadership post. But Castro has been at the center of action recently in Washington.
He chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which operates at the cutting edge of border policy. As an Intelligence Committee member, Castro has become a cable television regular on matters of security and foreign affairs. And he wrote the resolution that passed the House and Senate rebuking President Donald Trump for his national emergency declaration to fund the border wall. Trump vetoed the measure.
Cornyn’s support of the president’s authority in the recent high-decibel Washington debate suggests that a Castro-Cornyn contest would trigger an intense airing of border issues.
Houston-born Cornyn, 67, is a former Texas attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice. He spent part of his high school years in San Antonio, graduated from Trinity University and received his law degree from St. Mary’s University. Cornyn has $5.8 million on hand for his re-election – some 40 times Castro’s political bank balance – bolstered by contributions from the oil and gas industry.
Democrats bank on massive turnout in 2020
A Castro candidacy against Cornyn likely would be viewed as an uphill climb in part due to Democrats’ quarter-century drought in statewide contests. Democrats last won a statewide Texas office in 1994, the year Bob Bullock succeeded in his campaign for lieutenant governor.
But Castro supporters predict a massive turnout in 2020, spurred by an energized Democratic electorate. Anti-Trump sentiment among Democrats helped Beto O’Rourke come within 2.6 percentage points of unseating Ted Cruz last year.
A Castro candidacy could benefit from the quest by his twin brother, Julián, like O’Rourke a contestant in the Democratic presidential field. The prospect of Latino twins running for high office will propel turnout among Latinos, which surged last year across the state, analysts say.
But what if Castro doesn’t run? EMILY’s List is also looking into this race:
The influential group, which backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, is in talks with three potential candidates: Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, who lost a House race in 2018; Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards; and former state Sen. Wendy Davis.
“We would love to see a woman take Sen. [John] Cornyn on,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock told reporters Thursday. “We are in some conversations and really would like to find the candidate and then get everybody behind a strong woman to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas.”
Castro’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to Texas Monthly, Davis encouraged Castro to run and would consider running herself if he does not.
Hegar has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate since she raised millions last cycle in her unsuccessful race against GOP Rep. John Carter — she lost by 3 points. Hegar tweeted this week that she is “taking a very close look” at running for Senate.