As the Texas primary approaches, Texas Democrats will have to choose between a crowded field of presidential candidates, but also between several Democrats running to unseat Republican John Cornyn in the U.S. Senate.
Jim Henson is director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas in Austin. He says the Senate race has national appeal, and that Republican incumbent John Cornyn, who’s held the office since 2002, is perceived as more vulnerable than fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in 2018. And even in that race, Cruz narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Cornyn will face the winner among a large Democratic field.
Henson says Cornyn has always had less name recognition than other high-ranking Republican officeholders in Texas.
“His approval numbers, and even his name recognition, have been lower than the top-line Republicans like, say, Ted Cruz, or certainly [Gov.] Greg Abbott,” Henson says.
In the most recent UT/Texas Tribune poll, most Texans did not have a strong opinion about Cornyn.
“And that’s not the first time we’ve seen that with Cornyn,” Henson says.
Among the 12 Democrats competing to face Cornyn, MJ Hegar has taken the lead, with 22% of likely Democratic voters. Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is currently in second place, with 9% support in the poll.
Henson says it’s likely the top two Democrats in the race will meet in a runoff. That happens if no candidate gets more than 50% of the primary vote.
To avoid a runoff, “you would need MJ Hegar to really pour it on in the next couple of weeks,” Henson says.
Though Ramirez is second in the UT/TT poll, her 9% isn’t much ahead of the next group of challengers in the primary, meaning that her spot in the runoff is by no means certain.
“Nobody in this race has broad, statewide recognition,” Henson says. “So it’s a real toss-up who is going to emerge in that second spot.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.