Texas Politics

Beto O’Rourke announces he won’t run for Senate, may announce presidential bid soon

Beto O’Rourke will not run against Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn next year and may announce his run for presidency soon, his staff confirmed Wednesday.

In November, O’Rourke lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a close race that drew national attention. Since then, there’s been much speculation that the El Paso congressman may be eying a 2020 presidential bid.

“Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country,” O’Rourke told the Dallas Morning News. “We are excited to share it with everyone soon.”

Confidants close to O’Rourke said Wednesday he will not run against Cornyn, according to the Morning News. O’Rourke did not immediately return a telephone call to the Star-Telegram seeking comment, but his staff confirmed his comment about an announcement coming soon.

Deborah Peoples, Tarrant County Democratic Party chair, said she supports O’Rourke’s bid if that’s what he decides to do.

“Whatever Beto O’Rourke runs for, I’m in his corner,” Peoples said. “So should he choose to run for the presidency, I think that is a great thing for the state of Texas and for Americans all over. I think that’s a personal decision and one he can make himself.”

In the fierce battle for the U.S. Senate, O’Rourke won Tarrant County by 3,869 votes in his bid to unseat Republican Ted Cruz.

Last week, Cornyn called on fellow Republicans to help “STOP BETO” by giving to the Cornyn re-election campaign.

He sent out a letter to supporters saying that “all signs point to another well-funded, high stakes challenge from Beto in 2020. We need to be ready for anything.”

Cornyn told reporters in Fort Worth that O’Rourke’s Senate bid against Cruz was “closer than many people would have thought.” Cruz won that race with just over 200,000 more votes than O’Rourke.

“He captured people’s imaginations and came very close to winning,” Cornyn said. “It only makes sense ... that candidates running in 2020 learn from that.”

If he does run, O’Rourke will join a crowded field of Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Texan Julian Castro.

Having Castro and Beto in the presidential bid would “raise the stakes for the Texas Democratic primary,” said Matt Angle, Founder and Director of the Lone Star Project.

“If I had my way entirely, either Castro or Beto would run against John Cornyn for U.S. Senate, but I know Texans will be excited that two smart, capable Texas may be in the presidential race,” Angle said.

During his Senate campaign, Beto said repeatedly he would not run for president.

However, he then told TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he would make a decision before the end of February about whether he would run for president.

He indicated that he was “leaning toward” jumping into the race as well.

“I think he reached the judgment that he’s been there and done that in terms of making a Senate run,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “He probably correctly made the decision that he would be less likely to defeat Cornyn than he was to defeat Cruz.

“Obviously he’s thinking about jumping into the presidential election,” he said. “One would have to think there’s a significant chance he will.”

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.
Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.