January 2, 2020

Texas Democrat Who Could Have Been Senate Nominee
Gives Up on President Quest that Never Got Off Ground

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Julian Castro joined Beto O'Rourke on Thursday on the list of Texas Democrats who would have had a good shot at a winning U.S. Senate race in 2020 when he shut down a presidential campaign that never appeared to have a chance since he entered the fray a year ago.

Castro - a former San Antonio mayor who served as a Barack Obama cabinet member - left the Democratic field without a Hispanic contender or a Texan when he bailed out of the White House competition a month before the voting is set to get under way with the Iowa caucuses.

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary announced his exit from the national stage in a video that credited his campaign with having a profound impact on the debate in the battle for the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge President Donald Trump in the general election later this year.

“I’m so proud of the campaign we’ve run together," Castro said. "We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people and given a voice to those who are often forgotten. But with only a month until the Iowa caucuses, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time.”

“So today it’s with a heavy heart and with profound gratitude that I will suspend my campaign for president," Castro added. "To all who have been inspired by our campaign, especially our young people, keep reaching for your dreams and keep fighting for what you believe in."

Castro pulled the plug on the longshot bid two months after O'Rourke dropped out of the presidential competition and shifted his focus to raising cash for Texas House candidates in the Democratic Party's quest to reclaim the majority in the Legislature's lower chamber.

A former congressional member who'd served on the El Paso City Council, O'Rourke had been one of the early favorites for the Democratic nomination when he entered the chase early last year after raising a record-shattering sum of money en route to almost knocking off Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in the top race on the Texas ballot in 2018. But O'Rourke's stock was plummeting by the time he called it quits last year.

While O'Rourke had been relatively unknown outside of political circles in El Paso, Washington and Austin before the juggernaut Senate race in the last election cycle, Castro had been viewed for several years as one of the Democrats' rising national stars before setting his sights on the nation's top political prize. Castro had been on Hillary Clinton's short list of potential running mates in 2016 after delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention four years earlier.

But Castro had been stuck at the bottom of the pack of White House hopefuls with 1 percent support on average in the national polling from the time he dove into the race until he threw in the towel today.

Castro - an Alamo City native who's identical twin brother is U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro - will be contemplating what could have been as someone who could have been a prohibitive favorite in the Democratic battle for the job that veteran Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is seeking again if he hadn't overestimated his ability to compete at the highest level of politics in America.

O'Rourke can expect to be dogged as well by the fact that he would have had dramatically higher odds as a U.S. Senate contender in a fight with Cornyn in a state where Trump has been major down-ballot baggage for Republicans in the last two election cycles.

Castro and O'Rourke - however - could find it difficult to regain the star status that they enjoyed after shooting for the stars instead of attempting to work their way to the top with a U.S. Senate stint as a springboard like former presidential rivals Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders had done as the trio of Democrats who appear to have the best hopes now for a 2020 primary victory.

The Democrats' chances for ousting Cornyn next fall appear to be much lower now in a crowded field that MJ Hegar of Georgetown has been leading slightly after an impressive but successful bid for Congress in 2018 when she'd been a political unknown at the outset.

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