AUSTIN — U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro exchanged compliments with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a fellow Democratic congressman from El Paso who would be his opponent if he runs for the U.S. Senate next year, at a reception over the weekend, with both denouncing President Donald Trump’s health care and immigration policies.
O’Rourke is running for the Senate seat now held by Ted Cruz, a first-term Republican who came in second to Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination last year.
Castro is not running. At least not yet.
Both congressmen were featured speakers at a Democratic National Committee event hosted by the Texas Democratic Party, joined by DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison.
“I want to acknowledge a good friend of mine, Beto O’Rourke, who announced his candidacy,” Castro told the crowd. “Y’all know that I’m also considering a run for the Senate, and will make a decision by the end of April. Just so you know, Beto and I are friends, and we’ve talked about it, and if we have a primary, as he said, we’ll make sure we’ll do it in a way that makes Texans proud.”
The DNC leaders’ trip to Austin is part of the Democratic Turnaround Tour, which includes stops in states that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016.
O’Rourke, who announced his bid to unseat Cruz on Friday, held a meet and greet in Austin prior to the reception Saturday. He launched his campaign kickoff in El Paso and is scheduled to have additional events in Dallas, Waco and Houston.
During his speech, O’Rourke said that watching Castro talk to his constituents and the American people about the dangers of Trump’s ties to a foreign power at the expense of democracy made him “extremely proud,” a reference to Russia.
“This state, our democracy, this party is big enough for the two of us, for the three of us if Julian wants to get in,” O’Rourke said, referring to Castro’s twin brother, a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. “I know that if we run, we’ll do it in a way to make you proud, and we’ll be competing on ideas and on ways to serve you and represent you.”
O’Rourke said he and Castro would compete on ideas and ways to serve and represent Texans, unlike Cruz, who O’Rourke said would rather shut down the government and put ideology over veterans’ health care and benefits.
“We need a full-time senator in this state,” O’Rourke said.
As part of his campaign, he said he has been meeting with Republicans and Democrats alike, and that he would not accept corporate cash or rely on pollsters to win Cruz’s seat, which has not been taken by a Democrat for the past 30 years.
Ellison spoke of a new spirit moving across Texas in reaction to Trump’s win and said Democrats believe that all people are entitled to dignity and respect.
Perez alluded to the legal fight over redistricting in Texas, after a three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled that the Republican-majority Legislature drew three congressional districts in a way that discriminated on the basis of race. Voter suppression is part of the Republican playbook, and the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was made to provide a massive tax cut for the wealthy, Perez said.
“This is more than a debate about health care, this is a debate about values,” Perez said. “Ted Cruz, you don’t stand for our values in Texas. Democratic values are the values in America.”
This story was published in the San Antonio Express-News April 4, 2017.