Congress

Beto O’Rourke says he’s out, but Rep. Joaquin Castro might run for Texas Senate seat

Democrats hope to unseat Republican Sen. John Cornyn

Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro’s twin brother Julian Castro, a 2020 presidential candidate, says his brother might be a Senate candidate then, too. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Joaquín Castro is weighing a run for the Senate in Texas.

“Congressman Castro will seriously consider running for Senate in 2020,” his campaign said in a statement Friday.

His brother signaled Thursday that the 20th District congressman may jump into the race.

“He’s considering that, but he really has not made a decision about whether he’s going to do that. I would imagine he would make a decision at some point soon,” Democratic presidential candidate and former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, told The Associated Press.

Joaquín and Julián are close advisers to each other in their political pursuits. But the Castro brothers have never run for office in the same campaign cycle. 

The news comes on the heels of reports that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke will forgo another shot at the Senate in order to join a crowded presidential primary field.

Asked earlier this week to confirm a Politico report that Castro would support another Senate bid by O’Rourke, or consider running himself if his former colleague runs for the White House, Castro said, “We’ll talk about it another time.”

O’Rourke invigorated Democrats in the state and earned national media attention for a 2018 campaign that nearly ousted Sen. Ted Cruz, but fell short by about 3 percentage points.

O’Rourke would have posed a credible threat to the powerful Senator, early polls indicate. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found that in a hypothetical matchup between Cornyn and O’Rourke, the incumbent and challenger were tied at 46 percent. Independent voters preferred O’Rourke,  47 percent to 40 percent.

Texas Democrats worry O’Rourke sitting out the statewide run in order to pursue the White House dims their chances of representation in the upper chamber.

Democrats need to flip at least three seats from red to blue in order to win a majority in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has looked to the seat of Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn as a pickup opportunity. Cornyn served in the second-ranking leadership spot in the Republican majority until this year, and he sits on the powerful Finance Committee.

Cornyn appeared to taunt the Senate minority leader in a recent interview with Politico. He urged Democrats to “throw him overboard” if Schumer failed to win a majority for the Senate in 2020. 

“It’s kill or be killed around here,” Cornyn said. “Work where you can with your colleagues, recognizing that probably, given the opportunity, they will try to end your political career.”

Castro has not captured the same national attention as O’Rourke. But he has grabbed headlines in recent weeks for sponsoring a measure passed Tuesday that would block President Donald Trump’s maneuver to circumvent Congress for billions in funding for a border wall. 

Castro’s office said he remains focused on that effort in his statement Friday.

“Right now, he’s focused on protecting Texans — and Americans — from the most consequential challenge to our constitutional powers that we have seen in a generation,” the statement said. 

“He will not stand by while the president attempts to unilaterally strip Texans of their land in a manner to build a wall that most Americans, especially Texans, disagree with,” the statement continued.

Julián Castro emphasized the distinction on this issue between his brother and Cornyn, who will vote against the bill to stymie Trump’s push for his wall.

“I think he’d beat him. My brother would win,” Castro said in an interview with the Associated Press. “There are a lot of Texans that clearly have problems with the way that he has represented the state. Most recently, refusing to stand up to Trump even though a lot of land is going to get taken, a lot of Texas landowners’ property is going to get taken if there’s a wall.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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