April 9, 2020

Cornyn Gambling Fate of Down-Ballot Republicans
with Claims that Portray Coronavirus as Act of War

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

A war of words that U.S. Senator John Cornyn and other Texas Republicans are waging against China as a consequence of the coronavirus could make it harder for the GOP to defend more than a half-dozen legislative and congressional seats this fall in districts with Asian-American populations that have soared in recent years.

While polls show that the lion's share of voters on both sides of the aisle think China mismanaged the outbreak of the disease in its initial stages, the angry accusations and insults that have reached a fever pitch on the hard right have the potential to spark a sharp backlash at the polls in highly-competitive races that Texans of Asian descent could swing in the Democras' favor.

Cornyn ran the risk of putting down-ballot Republicans in four Texas House fights and four congressional contests in greater danger on Thursday when he escalated the rhetorical hostility with the assertion that China had employed misleading claims on the pandemic as a weapon against the United States.

The veteran lawmaker who has a history of animosity toward China contended that Americans were insufficiently prepared for the COVID-19 invasion here as a result of the Chinese government's manipulation of information on the disease as a way to make it appear to be less of a threat that's proven to be here.

Houston-area congressional contender Kathaleen Wall had taken the suspicions to a new extreme last week when she branded China as a criminal enterprise in a television ad that accused the Asian nation of poisoning Americans with COVID-19 in a way that made the spread of the virus in the U.S. appear to a premeditated act of terrorism.

Staunch conservatives had been taking cues from President Donald Trump when they began referring to the contagion last month as the Chinese virus. But some activists on the right in Texas have continued to parrot the unofficial pandemic renaming after Trump began to backpeddle in the wake of a counteroffensive that China launched with accusations that the U.S. had been the real culprit and was trying to hide behind a propoganda campaign.

While Trump has vascillated in the blame game that the coronavirus has triggered, Republicans like Cornyn and Wall have given the Democrats here a prime recruiting tool for support in parts of the state where the Asian-American population is concentrated and surging.

The China bashing on the coronavirus is a high-risk gamble that could put the GOP's majority in the Texas House in jeopardy in a state where Democrats could seize control of the lower chamber with a net gain of nine seats or more. State Reps. Matt Shaheen of Plano, Jeff Leach of Allen and Sarah Davis of Houston could be the House Republicans with the most to lose in re-election races in swing districts where the number of Asians has mushroomed in the past decade.

The down-ballot damage could be more severe in an open House race in the Houston area where there are more Asian-American voters than any other district in the state. The number of Asians in House District 26 in Fort Bend County be as high as the number of whites by the time the census is completed later this year. Sugar Land - the largest city in HD 26 - had a population that was 36 percent Asian in 2010. The Asian resident account has vaulted by an estimated 65 percent there in the past 10 years.

Leach and Shaheen - a pair of Collin County lawmakers who've been among the chamber's most conservative members - represent districts that had the second and sixth highest number of Asian voters when they were both elected initially in 2012.

Asian-Americans accounted for almost 20 percent of the population in Allen and Plano - the two largest cities in the district where Leach is seeking a new term in 2020. The Asian share of the populations in Allen and Plano has gone up about 40 percent and 80 percent respectively since 2010. The portion of Plano that Shaheen represents has more Asian-American residents than the Leach district next door.

Frisco - the largest city in the Denton County district where GOP State Rep. Jared Patterson is seeking a second term - has an Asian population that more than doubled in the past decade.

Davis, who represents the most Democratic district that the GOP will attempt to defend in the general election, represents the inner-city suburb of Bellaire where the number of Asians is almost twice the size as it had been when she won the House District 134 seat initially in 2010.

Asian-Americans voters could be the tipping in a pair of congressional districts that are top targeting in November as well in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher - a Houston Democrat who ousted an incumbent Republican in 2018 - has Bellaire in a district that's high on the GOP hit list this year.

Cornyn sought to pin the blame on China two weeks ago for the global devastation that the worst public health emergency in more than 100 years has left its path since the outbreak got under way there late last year. Cornyn suggested that the contagion was a direct product of the culture in the Asian nation where he said that people eat bats and snakes and dogs.

The attribution attempt appeared to be an extrapolation from the Centers for Disease Control theory that the current strain of the coronavirus originated in bats that were sold in open markets as delicacies like caviar that's made from fish eggs is considered to be in the U.S. and other nations.

Cornyn served up an appraisal today that was considerably harsher, however, when he declared that China had been responsible for the death and devastation in American amid the suggesion that the Asian nation should be punished for actions that Wall appears to see as a crime.


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