The decision by San Antonio Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro to stay out of the 2018 race for the U.S. Senate is a wise one, for him, for the Democratic Party, for the state – and for the nation.
Castro would have probably lost his party’s nomination to El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is generating plenty of excitement among Texas Democrats eager for a fresh new face and voice, one who stands outside the traditional politician mold.
We don’t know if Castro ever intended to run, but he was certainly talked about by the pundits and party activists as if he was the anointed one, as if the nomination was his for the asking.
If he did intend to run, Castro simply waited too long. While he was playing coy, O’Rourke plunged right into the race with a spirited young Turk-ish campaign designed to be financed strictly by grassroots support (no PAC money). That kind of campaign can only succeed if the candidate offers excitement and passion.
Castro doesn’t, and he never really has. Both he and his twin brother, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro have never showed much flair for the kind of populist campaign it will take to defeat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Both have been way too cautious in their politics and in their campaigning, which is rather surprising given that their mother and mentor, María del Rosario, got her start in politics with the Raza Unida Party in San Antonio.
There may be other Texans considering a race for the Cruz seat, but they too will probably decide that they can’t overcome O’Rourke’s head start, and his charisma. Having no major opponent in the primary means that O’Rourke will be able to use the money he is raising to make himself better known to all Texans, and to mount a meaningful campaign to expose Cruz as the fraud he is.
No doubt there are many out there who believe Cruz is unbeatable. He’s got the name and he’ll have the millions of dollars that he’ll collect from the same people who financed his run for the 2012 GOP nomination.
But Texas is changing, and the presence of Donald Trump in the White House and the mess he and his GOP supporters in Congress (Cruz among them) have created – and will continue to create – could be enough to make voters finally turn their back on the Republican Party when offered a clear and attractive alternative.
Juan Palomo, a former Hays Countian, is a retired newspaperman living in Houston.