With All Eyes On The 2020 Presidential Race, A Serious Senate Challenge Could Be Shaping Up In Texas

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro is reportedly “all but certain” to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

By Jill Ament & Laura RiceMarch 19, 2019 1:26 pm

Texas Monthly reporter Carlos Sanchez says “several sources” close to U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro tell him an announcement from Castro could come soon.

The logic behind the timing is that former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s decision to run for president opens a path for Castro to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for his seat in 2020. O’Rourke narrowly lost his own bid for the Senate in 2018 against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and there was also speculation for months about whether O’Rourke would be the one to challenge Cornyn. The close margin of the Cruz-O’Rourke race could mean that Democrats have a greater chance of winning a statewide race than most previously thought.

Meanwhile, Castro’s brother, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, is in the beginning phase of his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanchez says running concurrent campaigns could be good news for both Castro brothers.

“From all the political watchers that I’ve spoken with, there’s suggestion that it helps, and it helps Julián Castro in particular,” Sanchez says. “I think Joaquin’s candidacy would always have generated some interest, but Julián has been overshadowed significantly by Beto O’Rourke.”

In the Senate race, Cornyn has a massive war chest with which to ward off a Castro challenge, but Sanchez says Cornyn also has some vulnerabilities. He does not think Cornyn can necessarily count on the loyalty of the conservative base that came out to make sure Cruz was re-elected. Cornyn also has not faced a significant challenger in many years.

“But it must be remembered: Cornyn should not be underestimated,” Sanchez says. “When Cornyn first became [Texas] Attorney General, he defeated [Democrat] Jim Mattox who was a bulldog campaigner in his time.”

Sanchez says Cornyn has also hired more staff in anticipation of a competitive race.

Written by Laura Rice.