Democratic leaders announced Friday that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, who both hail from critical 2020 states, will give the responses to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4.
Whitmer leads Michigan, a top presidential and congressional battleground that Trump won by less than half a percentage point in 2016. Escobar, who will give the Spanish-language response to the president’s address, represents a deep-blue district in Texas, where Democrats are hoping to make gains in the state’s diversifying suburbs.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Whitmer as “a forward-looking leader who is laser-focused on solving problems for everyday Michiganders and is uniquely qualified to deliver Democrats’ message of progress for all Americans.”
After serving in the state legislature and as a county prosecutor, Whitmer won the governor’s race in 2018 by nearly 10 points. Michigan is a top target for both parties this year, especially with the state’s competitive Senate race between Democratic incumbent Gary Peters and Army veteran John James, as well as a handful of competitive House races.
Escobar, a freshman and one of the first two Latinas to represent Texas in Congress, recently joined House Democratic leadership as co-representative of the freshman class, replacing California Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned in October. She succeeded Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the House, after he vacated his seat for an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2018.
As one of the Democrats who represents a district that lies along the U.S.-Mexico border, Escobar has been critical of Trump’s immigration policies. The 16th District includes El Paso, where a gunman targeted Latinos in August 2019, killing 22 people at a Walmart.
“Whether it’s giving a voice to Latinos across America, or helping her home town of El Paso heal after gun violence, or holding the Trump Administration accountable for its assaults on the vulnerable, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar has embodied the best of public service in her first year in Congress,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a statement.
Before coming to Congress, Escobar served as a county judge and a county commissioner. She is a close ally of O’Rourke, whom she endorsed in his failed run for president. The pair were part of a group of politicians, known locally as “the progressives,” who sought to revitalize downtown El Paso.
Escobar does not face a competitive race in a district Hillary Clinton carried by 41 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates her race Solid Democratic. But Texas is a top target for Democrats, who are looking to flip several GOP-held House seats in the Lone Star State. Democrats are also looking to give GOP incumbent John Cornyn a competitive Senate race this year, after O’Rourke nearly defeated Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.