U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) made his challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) official at a rally in his hometown of El Paso today (Friday). No Democrat has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas since 1988, and no sitting representative from Texas has been promoted to the Senate since 1984. No Democrat has won statewide since 1994.
A three-term member of Congress, O’Rourke has twice defeated incumbents to win the two public offices he’s held. In 2005, he defeated a two-term incumbent for a seat on the El Paso City Council. Seven years later, he upset longtime U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) in a primary election.
O’Rourke begins the campaign a 10-to-1 underdog in campaign resources. As of the end of 2016, Cruz had $4.2M on hand after raising $779K in the last quarter of the year. O’Rourke reported having $399K on hand after raising $201K during the last three months of the year. In fact, Cruz raised more in those final three months of 2016 than O’Rourke raised during the entire 2015-16 cycle.
Today (Friday) is the last day of the current fundraising period, and timing his announcement for this day will give an early sign into O’Rourke’s fundraising ability as a Senate candidate. However, O’Rourke does not accept contributions from PACs, which means he would need large numbers of small donors to run a competitive campaign, at least in the traditional sense of the term. SuperPACs may choose to get involved, but their appetite for spending on races in Texas has been minimal outside of CD23.
In 2014, Democratic challenger David Alameel raised $4.4M and spent $5.6M on his way to receiving 34% against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who out-raised him and nearly out-spent him by $10M. Cruz’s 2012 Democratic opponent, former Rep. Paul Sadler (D-Henderson), raised $684K and spent $517K.
Just prior to O’Roruke’s announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed Cruz, and the incumbent sent a fundraising email calling O’Rourke “an unabashed liberal.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), a potential Democratic candidate, sent a fundraising email asking donors to “back him up and give him the support he needs” while he “seriously” thinks about the race. Castro “will make his decision in the coming weeks.”
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