Average share of the vote received by the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in a gubernatorial election cycle since 1990.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) has scheduled a “major announcement” for Friday that most observers believe will serve as his formal entry into the race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R). O’Rourke would also be running against three decades of history.
Democrats have lost 10 straight contests for the U.S. Senate since 1988, when former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) won a fourth term over then-U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter (R-Amarillo), 59%-40%. A Democrat broken 40% in a gubernatorial election year just once since 1982, when Bentsen won his third term.
Recent Democratic senatorial nominees received 2% less of the vote, on average, when running in gubernatorial election cycles. That number jumps to 4.5% if one excludes the 2000 election. That year, Gov. George W. Bush first ran for president and Democratic voters nominated perennial candidate Gene Kelly for Senate. Kelly’s 32.3% is the all-time Democratic low-water mark for a Senate contest.
Last 10 Democratic Senate Nominees, Ranked by Share of Vote
43.9% – Victor Morales vs. U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (1996)
43.3% – Ron Kirk vs. John Cornyn (2002)
42.8% – former Rep. Rick Noriega vs. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (2008)
40.6% – former Rep. Paul Sadler vs. Ted Cruz (2012)
38.3% – Richard Fisher vs. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (1994)
37.4% – former Sen. Hugh Parmer (D-Fort Worth) vs. U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (1990)
36.0% – Barbara Ann Radnofsky vs. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (2006)
34.4% – David Alameel vs. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (2014)
32.7% – U.S. Sen. Bob Krueger vs. Kay Bailey Hutchison (1993 special runoff)
32.3% – Gene Kelly vs. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Huthcison (2000)
Since 1990, just three Democratic nominees for Senate have received a higher percentage of the vote than the party’s respective nominees for president or governor.
Difference in Share of the Vote Between Senatorial and Top-race Candidates
+6.25% – Barbara Ann Radnofsky, compared to Chris Bell (2006)*
+3.37% – Ron Kirk, compared to Tony Sanchez (2002)
+0.11% – Victor Morales, compared to Bill Clinton (1996)
-0.76% – Paul Sadler, compared to Barack Obama (2012)
-0.84% – Rick Noriega, compared to Barack Obama (2008)
-4.54% – David Alameel, compared to Wendy Davis (2014)
-5.63% – Gene Kelly, compared to Al Gore (2000)
-7.57% – Richard Fisher, compared to Ann Richards (1994)
-12.06% – Hugh Parmer, compared to Ann Richards (1990)
*The 2006 gubernatorial race featured two strong independent candidates who, combined, received a greater share of the vote than Bell (30.6% to 29.8%).
The 1993 special runoff election between Bob Krueger and Kay Bailey Hutchison was the only race on the ballot.
No sitting U.S. representative has won a U.S. Senate seat from Texas since Phil Gramm in 1984, and no sitting member of Congress has been a party’s nominee since Boulter in 1988.
- In 1993, a pair of sitting U.S. representatives failed to make the runoff for the special election to fill the unexpired portion of Bentsen’s term. U.S. Reps. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) and Jack Fields (R-Humble) each received 14% of the vote.
- A pair of sitting U.S. representatives ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1996. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Chapman (D-Sulphur Springs) failed to make a runoff and former U.S. Rep. John Bryant (D-Dallas) lost the runoff to educator and everyman candidate Victor Morales.
- U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Houston) failed to make a runoff for the 2002 Democratic nomination, in which former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk defeated Morales; and
- In 2014, former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Clear Lake) lost a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Another sitting member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), is also “heavily weighing” the race and is expected to decide “in the coming weeks,” according to a statement. Anson paramedic Justin Poland has created a CrowdPAC fundraising page for a potential Democratic primary run. Wimberly resident and national political analyst Matthew Dowd is weighing an independent bid. The history facing Dowd is even more daunting.
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