State Sen. Royce West enters Democratic primary to challenge John Cornyn

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, speaks to the press following Gov. Abbott's State of the State address in Austin on Feb. 5, 2019.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, speaks to the press following Gov. Abbott’s State of the State address in Austin on Feb. 5, 2019.
Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

DALLAS — State Sen. Royce West made it official Monday: He’s running for U.S. Senate, joining a crowded and unsettled Democratic primary in the race to unseat Republican John Cornyn.

“Texans believe that the best way to get things done is to roll up their sleeves, use some grit and determination, and work with everyone to accomplish big things,” West said in a statement.

“I have spent my life as an advocate for parents and teachers to achieve world-class education for students, championing criminal justice reform, supporting workers seeking fair wages, and advocating for common-sense gun legislation,” he added. “We need a United States Senator who will do those things, and I hope to earn your vote.”

The Dallas attorney has been viewed as a potential primary contender for some time now, but remained mum publicly on his plans. In June, West met with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., where he reportedly had a “positive meeting” and signaled that he was likely to throw his hat in the ring. He filed the Federal Election Commission paperwork to formally launch his bid on Friday.

West has served in the Texas Senate since 1993. He was elected to another four-year term in 2018 and will not have to give up his seat to challenge Cornyn.

West’s announcement comes days after Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, another Democrat, launched her bid for U.S. Senate. The two enter a crowded primary comprised of MJ Hegar, a 2018 U.S. House candidate and retired Air Force helicopter pilot and Chris Bell, a former Houston congressman and 2006 gubernatorial nominee.

A group of Democratic progressive operatives is also working to draft Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the founder and executive director of Jolt, a nonprofit she started three years ago to mobilize young Latinos in Texas politics.

Whoever wins the primary will square off against a well-established Republican incumbent who has already amassed a war chest topping $9 million. In the latest fundraising quarter, Cornyn raised more than $2.5 million compared to Hegar’s $1 million haul.

Still, Democrats have remained hopeful in their ability to flip Cornyn’s seat following Beto O’Rourke’s hard-fought, nationally watched U.S. Senate race against incumbent Ted Cruz last year. The former El Paso congressman lost by a small margin of three points — a tighter race than Democrats have achieved in years. Several statewide Republican incumbents, meanwhile, were elected by mere single digits.

Source: Texas Tribune