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Elections 2020

Democrat Chris Bell plans to run for U.S. Senate

The former Houston congressman and 2006 gubernatorial candidate is moving forward with a U.S. Senate run.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democrat Chris Bell, the former Houston congressman and 2006 gubernatorial nominee, is moving forward with a U.S. Senate run.

On Tuesday, he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission establishing a campaign. Shortly afterward, he told The Texas Tribune that he was “definitely planning to run” but will make a formal announcement at a later date.

Bell revealed in early May that he was considering a Senate bid and launched an exploratory committee last month.

If he runs, Bell would join several Democrats already running to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Among them is former U.S. House candidate MJ Hegar, who raised over $1 million in the second quarter, according to her campaign.

There are also other Democrats still weighing campaigns, including Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas.

Bell, a former Houston City Council member, represented a district that included part of the city in Congress from 2003-2005. In the 2006 gubernatorial race, he got 30% of the vote against then-Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and two well-known independent candidates. He has since attempted a number of political comebacks.

In his filing with the FEC, Bell named former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski as his campaign treasurer. Bell said the Jaworski name “stands for integrity and the highest ethical standards in the eyes of many Texans things that are sorely missing in today’s Washington and that I plan to talk about a lot on the campaign trail.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Elections 2020

Castro Questions Biden’s Memory, Democrats Express Unease

The Democratic presidential candidate’s rivals offered mixed reactions to the tense tangle between Castro and the former vice president.

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Former Secetary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Julián Castro struck a nerve Thursday night — and he’s not saying sorry.

In sharply questioning rival Joe Biden‘s memory, the Democratic presidential candidate brought to the fore simmering concerns about the 76-year-old former vice president’s fitness for office. And while Castro has sought to keep the spotlight on the policy dispute that fueled the moment, he held firm Friday on the overall exchange.

The tense interrogation, which came during a health care exchange at the third primary debate here, divided other candidates, with at least one saying Castro raised a legitimate issue and two more expressing unease with the topic.

In the latter category was Castro’s fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke, who felt the wrath of Castro in the first debate and said Friday morning he “wasn’t really excited by” how Castro handled Biden. In a CNN interview, O’Rourke equated Castro’s questioning with the “pettiness, the name-calling, the small-ball politics” that O’Rourke said will not defeat President Donald Trump and unite the country.

“Look, if you’ve got a policy difference with Joe Biden, by all means, let’s air it at the debate, but that kind of personal attack I don’t think is what we need right now and is insufficient to the challenges we face,” O’Rourke said.

The blowup came as Castro criticized Biden’s health care plan, saying it would fall short of the goal of universal coverage because it requires people to buy in. After Biden denied that, Castro let it rip.

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked, “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that.”

A short time earlier in the debate, Biden did make a reference to certain people being able to buy in to his plan, but there seemed to be more nuance than Castro implied. Biden first said “anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.” He later said that if Americans lose their job and the insurance that comes with it, “you automatically can buy into this.”

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, Biden’s campaign suggested that Castro had not learned from the first two debates that taking “personal cheap shots” at Biden has not worked for other contenders. Castro disputed the notion it was a personal attack, seeking to emphasize the broader policy debate they were having.

Castro continued to stand his ground Friday morning in media appearances and a fundraising email that told supporters he was being “viciously attacked” for fighting for them in the debate.

“I had a critical choice to make on the debate stage last night,” Castro wrote. “I could either play it safe and give Vice President Biden a free pass like everyone else. Or I could speak up, challenge the conversation, and demand answers for you and your family.”

Biden’s campaign sent its own email to supporters saying Castro “got it wrong” and that the primary “should be decided on who can deliver for the American people, not who can throw the lowest blows (we already have a President who does that).”

The one candidate who offered some cover to Castro was U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“There’s a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball across the end line without fumbling,” Booker told CNN shortly after the debate. “And I think Castro has some really legitimate concerns about, ‘Can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line?’ and he has every right to call that out.”

At the same time, Booker added, “I do think that tone and tenor is really important, that we can respect Vice President Biden and disagree with him.”

The level of at least discomfort with Castro’s aggressive tack was more palpable among other hopefuls. Another rival of the two men, Amy Klobuchar, told CNN she found Castro’s interrogation “so personal and so unnecessary,” suggesting it was “something that Donald Trump might tweet out.”

Biden himself has not weighed in yet on the Castro controversy. He was spending Friday raising money in southeast Texas, first at an event in Houston and then at one in Beaumont.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Pegasus Owner Running For Congress as Republican

The gay, Trump-supporting Republican owner of the San Antonio Pegasus nightclub announced that he is running to represent Texas’ 20th congressional district.

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Mauro Garza announced he's running for Texas' 20th Congressional District during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. Photo credit: Mauro Garza campaign website

Mauro Garza, owner of the Pegasus nightclub in San Antonio and Trump supporter, is running for Congress as a Republican. He is running for Texas’ 20th congressional district which includes western San Antonio. He made the announcement on Friday, August 9, 2019 during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. If Garza wins the primary, he would face the Democratic incumbent and LGBT ally Rep. Joaquin Castro in the general election.

This isn’t his first attempt at running for office, though. In 2010, he ran for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 in Bexar County as a Democrat, losing in the primary by just 122 votes. The now self-proclaimed conservative Log Cabin Republican then ran again in 2018 in neighboring District 21, which includes parts of northern San Antonio along with a large portion of Austin and the Hill Country. In that crowded Republican primary to replace the retiring Lamar Smith, Garza self-funded his entire campaign with a personal loan of over $145K, only to net less than 1 percent of the votes.

According to Garza’s campaign website he is now pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment. Under ‘key issues’ he lists ‘Equality’; “I believe in EQUALITY. America is the land of the Free. I do not believe in discriminating against Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Age, Disability, Sexual Orientation, or National Origin.” Further, under “LGBT+ Rights’ he adds “I advocate for Marriage Equality, because the government has no right to be in our bedrooms. I advocate for Tax Equality for Domestic Partner Benefits. I will advocate Conservative Reform for the LGBT+ Community.”

Members of San Antonio’s LGBTQ+ community are taking a stand against Garza, with activists from Direct Action Network San Antonio calling for “a nationwide boycott in an effort to defund his contributions to anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians/platforms” with their #ProtestThePeg campaign.

“We must stand together to ensure that political attacks on our communities are denounced. We must work in unison to curtail monetary support of anti-LGBTQIA+ movements. Every time we spend our hard earned dollars at Pegasus Nightclub, we are paying to support our oppression. For this reason, we are making a nationwide call to anyone in our communities that are planning to visit the city of San Antonio to boycott the Pegasus.”

“We understand there are many artists who rely on the entertainment industry as their source of income,” the group said. “We are fully aware of the limits systemic oppression can impose on us to secure employment and meet our needs. We recognize that our spaces are the safest for LGBTQIA+ talent to work.However, the LGBTQIA+ entertainment industry provides different platforms that reach large audiences. We ask that you use those platforms responsibly and refrain from contracting talent to attend or perform at Pegasus Nightclub. We will continue the boycott and protests as long as Mr Garza sustains his support for politics and rhetoric that incite discrimination and violence against us and other vulnerable communities.”

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Elections 2020

Wendy Davis Announces Bid for Congress, Will Challenge U.S. Rep. Chip Roy

The former state senator is running for office for the first time since her unsuccessful campaign for Texas governor.

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Former state Sen. Wendy Davis is running against U.S. Rep. Chip Roy. Photo credit: Spencer Selvidge

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis is running for Congress..

Early Monday morning, Davis announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in Central Texas’ 21st District. She is challenging U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman Republican from Austin.

She made her intentions known in a biographical video, narrated in part with archival footage from her late father, Jerry Russell.

“I’m running for Congress because people’s voices are still being silenced,” she said. “I’m running for our children and grandchildren, so they can live and love and fight for change themselves.”

The potential Davis-Roy matchup is likely to be among the most polarizing races the state has seen in recent years. Davis is a fierce national advocate for abortion rights, while Roy has built his reputation in his first six months in Congress as a conservative firebrand.

Davis lives in Austin but spent much of her adult life in Fort Worth, where she served on the City Council and in the state Senate. In 2013, Davis became a national figure when she filibustered an omnibus anti-abortion bill. Later that fall, she announced her campaign for Texas governor. Despite strong fundraising, she lost to Republican Greg Abbott by over 20 percentage points.

“Even in losing, we helped shape the future,” she said in the video.

Roy responded on Monday afternoon on Twitter.

“Wendy Davis’ radical & extreme views will no doubt excite the likes of Nancy Pelosi & other DC liberals,” he wrote. “I will continue fighting for the hardworking families of #Tx21 & the commonsense values that make Texas everything Washington is not. #Life, #Liberty, & #PursuitOfHappiness.”

In a Monday interview with the Tribune, Davis was emphatic that she would win this race and stressed that she would take a bipartisan approach to the prospect of serving in Congress.

She also stressed an intent to “work to end divisiveness and to create the kind of unity that really helps to solve problems.”

“I have a reputation of doing that in the Texas Senate,” she added.

She brought up education, the environment, health care and reducing the cost of prescription drugs and preserving social security as the issues she would prioritize in this race.

After moving to Austin several years ago, Davis started an organization called Deeds Not Words, campaigned around the country for Hillary Clinton and remained involved in state and national politics. Earlier this year, she mulled a run for U.S. Senate. National Democrats anticipate she will be a powerhouse fundraiser.

Davis declined to ballpark how much money she intends to raise for this race.

“I can’t put a dollar figure on it, but I know we’re going to need sufficient resources to get our message out there,” she said.

As for Roy, he had a healthy second fundraising quarter this year, raising over $400,000 and reporting over $650,000 in cash on hand. He is a longtime fixture in Texas Republican politics, serving as a staffer to both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Attorney General Ken Paxton. In his first six months in Congress, he has had a knack for upending legislative procedure.

The 21st District begins in Austin, taking in neighborhoods on the south and southwest sides of town. It then runs south along the western side of Interstate 35 into San Antonio’s northern neighborhoods and into Alamo Heights. It then juts out west into the Hill Country, taking in Fredericksburg and Kerrville.

The House GOP campaign arm responded soon after Davis’ announcement.

“It’s beyond parody that Wendy Davis is attempting to make her political comeback in a district she lost by 20 points last time around,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera. “Texans resoundingly rejected Davis and her socialist agenda 5 years ago, and will do so again in 2020.”

The district’s previous incumbent, former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, easily carried the seat to a Republican victory. In his final race in 2016, he won reelection by 21 points. But in that same year, Hillary Clinton outperformed President Barack Obama’s previous margins. In 2018, Democrat Joseph Kopser came within three points of Roy.

Davis isn’t alone in seeking to challenge Roy. Llano County Democratic Chairwoman Jennie Lou Leeder and educator Bruce Boville are among Democratic candidates who have filed Federal Election Commission finance reports. But there is little doubt that Davis will have the backing of important state and national Democrats. On Tuesday, nearly every member of House Democratic leadership and nine members of the Texas delegation will host a reception in Washington, D.C., for the newly announced candidate.

Inside Elections, a campaign analyst group, currently rates this race “likely Republican.”

Republicans publicly and privately reacted to the Davis campaign with jubilation, given her disappointing performance in 2014. She shrugged it off.

“That’s typical D.C. noise,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all, but again, we’re going to win because we’re going to talk about issues that matter, plain and simple.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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