March 10, 2020
Cornyn Attempts to Help Democrats Drive Wedge
by Touting Ex-Candidates Flocking to Runner-Up
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
U.S. Senator John Cornyn appears to be cheering for State Senator Royce West in a Democratic primary runoff battle for the job that the veteran federal lawmaker is seeking again in a statewide race that could be unfolding on a more precarious playing field with the nation besieged by the coronavirus.
The Republican incumbent's camp fired off an email on Tuesday morning trumpeting an endorsement that West scored the day before from Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez - the former rival who placed a close third on Super Tuesday in a field with a dozen Democrats including first-round leader MJ Hegar.
The Cornyn campaign announced that Chris Bell and Michael Cooper - a pair of Democrats who finished sixth and eighth respectively in last week's U.S. Senate vote - appear poised to pitch their support to West this week in a move that would be tantamount to a full-scale repudiation of the Democratic establishment from Washington to the west coast in the Republican's eyes.
"Chuck Schumer, Rosie O’Donnell, Alyssa Milano and EMILY’S List are rooting for #HollywoodHegar," the Cornyn team said. "It will be interesting to see what Texas Democrats will do."
Schumer is a powerful New York solon who helped recruit Hegar for the race in his role as the Senate minority leader and chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the upper house of Congress. Cornyn and the Democratic Senate candidates who were snubbed by Schumer and his allies outside of Texas have all contended that the party powers that be at the national level have been attempting to steamroll a path for Hegar as their hand-picked nominee.
A 17-year U.S. Senate veteran who sailed to a primary win last week with more than 76 percent of the vote in a field with four GOP foes, Cornyn is doing his part now to help ensure that Democrats here are divided in 2020 after uniting in the last election cycle behind nominee Beto O'Rourke in a fight with Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz at the top of the Texas ballot. O'Rourke had Cruz on the ropes before losing by less than 3 percentage points in the 2018 general election.
But Cornyn's fate could be tied to factors out of his control in the midst of growing uncertainty fueled by the coronavirus spread and a potentially radioactive President Donald Trump leading the GOP in the race right above the U.S. Senate contest here.
Cornyn of course is not really a West fan like the endorsement-touting rapid response team message might seem to imply. But Cornyn might see the African-American legislator has a potentially weaker foe than Hegar for several reasons including the vast advantage that she had in the campaign cash chase due in significant part to support from Washington and other states.
Hegar raised more than $3.5 million for the first-round fight while West had less than $922,000 from donors heading into the final three weeks before Super Tuesday. But Hegar didn't exactly dazzle at the polls when she garnered 22 percent of the initial vote a week ago when West advanced to overtime with almost 15 percent. Ramirez had been leading West on the morning after the primary election before her eventual elimination with 13 percent.
West, Ramirez, Bell and Cooper received more than 41 percent of the round one vote combined. A pair of Democrats who came in fourth and fifth - Annie "Mama" Garcia and Amanda Edwards - both topped 10 percent in the ballot box last week as the only other U.S. Senate contenders in double digits. Bell had less than 9 percent of the first-round vote while failed to reach 5 percent.
Edwards is a black city council member in Houston while Garcia entered the race as a political unknown who had minimal funding and a catchy nickname that appeared to be her only apparent asset. Endorsements from Edwards or Garcia or both could be game-changers in round two.