To Defeat Greg Abbott, Texas Democrats Need To Recruit A Political Rock Star

Julián and Joaquín Castro, Clay Jenkins, Kirk Watson and Annise Parker have statewide name recognition, but could one of them take advantage of GOP unpopularity to challenge an incumbent governor with lots of money in the bank?

By Jill AmentJuly 17, 2017 11:14 am

Former Olympic gold medalist and transgender activist, Caitlyn Jenner, is flirting with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate. So is metal-rapper Kid Rock, though his campaign website seems mostly geared toward selling trucker caps and T-shirts.

Political professionals often dismiss celebrity candidates but Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have warned their party against underestimating “star” candidates in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election. In Texas, Democrats might even benefit from finding their own celebrity candidate if they want to defeat the reelection of Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced his bid last week.

Democratic analyst Harold Cook says finding a high-profile candidate to run against Abbott will be a huge challenge for Texas Democrats.

“Greg Abbott, as a campaigner, is absolutely relentless,” Cook says. “[P]erhaps most importantly, Greg Abbott is perhaps the best fundraiser I have ever seen in Texas. He’s already got $35 million raised.”

Cook says that to have any hope of defeating Abbott, a Democratic candidate would either need to have a high level of name recognition, or be able to raise a substantial amount of money.

There are Democrats who would fulfill these requirements, Cook says, yet most have not expressed an interest in running.

“Either of the Castro brothers would be great,” Cook says. “I think Clay Jenkins, the Dallas County Judge, would be great. I think Annise Parker, the former Houston mayor, would be great.”

Cook questions these potential candidates’ ability to raise the needed funds, but says Democrats face a more favorable electoral landscape in 2018 than they did when former State Senator Wendy Davis ran against Abbott in 2014 and lost.

“What we have a this point, which Wendy Davis did not have, is a political atmosphere which is nationwide, in which you have a very, very unpopular Republican in the White House that, at least in theory, should be dragging down local candidates, regional candidates and statewide candidates,” Cook says.

Cook points out that Donald Trump only won Texas by nine points in the 2016 election — a statewide margin far slimmer than that of most Republican presidential candidates in many years. And Trump continues to become more unpopular, Cook says.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.