In crowded Democratic field for U.S. Senate, candidates look to shine ahead of Cornyn challenge

Texas Politics

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, launched a campaign on Monday becoming the latest to challenge Texas' senior senator

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Democratic field challenging John Cornyn for Texas’ contested senate seat just got larger.

State Sen. Royce West, State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, launched a campaign on Monday to unseat Cornyn, the Republican incumbent. Royce becomes the latest to challenge Texas’ senior senator.

In his announcement from Dallas, West said he was encouraged by 10 of the 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate, and 47 of the 67 members of the Texas House of Representatives to run.

Former Air Force pilot MJ Hegar, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018, announced earlier this year she would run for the seat.

Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards is also running, as is former Congressman from Houston, Chris Bell.

The seat up for election is the same seat Lyndon Baines Johnson held for more than a decade before resigning to become Vice President under John F. Kennedy and then President when Kennedy was assassinated.

LBJ was the last Democrat elected to the post, with his appointed replacement, Democrat William Blakely, losing to Republican John Tower. Since Tower took office in 1961, only Republicans Phil Gramm and John Cornyn have held the seat.

“I will be an LBJ-type senator that sits down and gets the job done,” West, who was elected to the Texas Senate in 1993, said.

It’s a similar situation for the state’s other senate seat. A democrat from Texas has not been elected to the U-S Senate since 1988. When Democrat Lloyd Bentsen resigned in 1993 to become Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, Bob Krueger was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards. Krueger lost to Kay Bailey Hutchison. She retired in 2013, and Ted Cruz was elected. Cruz retained the seat by defeating Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

As West made his announcement, Cornyn’s campaign released an attack ad and website calling out West’s record, and saying the longtime legislator was “unfit for Texas.”

“While the Democrat primary is quickly turning into a contest of who can run to the left the fastest, we’re building our field operation and adding grassroots supporters,” Cornyn’s campaign manager John Jackson said in an emailed statement. “Whoever limps out of the runoff will face a grassroots army motivated to elect John Cornyn and stop Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren’s agenda.”

Cornyn has outraised his challengers thus far, accounting a $2.5 million haul in the last three months, with $9 million in the bank. In June, Cornyn welcomed the growing field entering the race.

“I think a contested Democratic primary would be a great thing and I look forward to taking on whoever the Democrats nominate in the general election,” he told reporters after an event in Austin. “I think we’ve got a lot to say about democratic socialism, about the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, some of these really radical ideas that the national Democratic Party is proposing and why that would be wrong for Texas.”

The 2020 primary is March 3.

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