Democratic Rep. Joaquín Castro will not run for Senate in Texas against Republican Sen. John Cornyn, he said Wednesday.
“Right now, I’m going to focus on my work in the House of Representatives. I’ve been doing what I feel is important and meaningful work here,” Castro told the San Antonio Express-News. “If and when I run for another office, it is likely to be something that takes me back home to Texas.”
Castro becomes the third major Democrat to pass on a Senate race this week, joining Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Rep. Cindy Axne in Iowa. But Castro’s decision may actually help the party avoid what could have become an expensive and drawn-out primary that could have hurt their chances to win the seat.
Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is the only Democrat currently in the race against Cornyn, though it’s possible other Democrats will run after Castro’s announcement. Democrats are optimistic about competing in Texas next year, but some in the party were concerned a clash between Castro and Hegar would doom those chances.
Hegar said in a statement that she had "tremendous respect" for Castro and was "laser-focused on [their] shared goal of defeating Sen. Cornyn next November."
Castro had teased a potential Senate campaign for weeks, first saying he was considering the race in early March. He met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) last month to discuss a potential campaign, and he had allies in Texas and nationally encouraging him for weeks to jump in. When Hegar announced her bid last week, Castro said the "era of uncontested primaries in both parties in Texas is over."
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But Castro, who was first elected in 2012, had sent few signals in recent weeks that he was gearing up for a statewide run. He only raised $36,000 in the first three months of this year, a paltry amount for a congressional incumbent, let alone one planning on running statewide in the nation’s second-most-populous state. His allies in Texas ultimately grew frustrated with his indecision, and few had heard directly about his plans ahead of the announcement Wednesday.
Castro’s brother, Julián, is running for president, and the congressman is the chairman of his campaign. Some allies questioned whether the congressman could have taken on a statewide campaign while helping his brother’s presidential bid.
Democrats are optimistic about their chances in Texas after then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s narrow lost to Sen. Ted Cruz last year, but Cornyn has prepared for a tough campaign, hiring staff early and raising more money than any other Senate incumbent so far.
In a statement after Castro’s announcement, Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson alluded to media reports that Schumer and the Democratic officials recruited Hegar and pushed Castro against running, accusing Democrats of "forcing a high-profile Hispanic leader out of the Senate race."