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Beto O’Rourke ends quest for 2020 Democratic nomination

O’Rourke tells supporters in Iowa that “we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (CFP) — Seven months after beginning his quest for the presidency with high hopes and lavish media attention born of political star power, former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has brought his campaign to an abrupt and quiet end.

O’Rourke’s exit from the race, amid anemic polling results and fundraising numbers, was made official November 1 in front of a crowd of supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, where he had been scheduled to speak at a Democratic event with the rest of the 2020 field.

Beto O’Rourke withdraws from Democratic race in Iowa (NBC News via YouTube)

“This is a campaign that has prided itself on seeing things clearly and speaking honestly,” O’Rourke told a small crowd of subdued supporters. “We have clearly seen at this point that we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully and that my service will not be as a candidate, nor as the nominee of this party for president.”

An aide to O’Rourke later told reporters that he would not enter the U.S. Senate race in Texas, as some Democratic leaders have been urging him to do. The filing deadline in Texas is December 9.

Watch video of Beto O’Rourke’s speech leaving the 2020 race

O’Rourke’s short-lived campaign will perhaps be best remembered for a moment in a September debate where, in a call for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons, he said, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

While the audience cheered, even some of his fellow Democrats winced at a soundbite likely to be weaponized by Republicans — and which may have extinguished any hope of a statewide political future for O’Rourke in Texas.

But O’Rourke offered no apologies during his withdrawal speech, saluting his campaign for being “unafraid to confront the conventional wisdom of what it was possible to say in the public sphere.”

O’Rourke, 47 — whose given first name is Robert but who uses his childhood nickname, Beto, a Spanish diminutive — served three terms in Congress representing El Paso before deciding to challenge Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018.

Given little chance at the beginning, O’Rourke and his campaign fired the imagination of Democratic activists around the country, raising more than $80 million and coming within 3 points of ousting Cruz, the runner up to President Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential contest.

O’Rourke hoped to ride that momentum to the Democratic nomination when he entered the race in late March. While his initial fundraising and polling numbers were strong amid an avalanche of media attention, both began to fade after uneven performances in early presidential debates.

O’Rourke pivoted to the gun control issue in August after a gunman killed 22 people at a Wal-Mart in his hometown of El Paso, but it did not resonate enough to propel him to the front of the Democratic pack.

O’Rourke was polling at 2 percent or less nationally and didn’t even register in one recent poll in Iowa, the first caucus state where he was drawing large crowds back in April.

His fundraising had also dried up, leaving his campaign with just $3.2 million at the end of September with early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire looming.

O’Rourke’s departure from the race leaves just one Southerner in the presidential race, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

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5 Southern U.S. House Democrats from pro-Trump districts support impeachment bill

Vote on bill outlining procedures for impeachment process breaks down along party lines

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Five Southern U.S. House Democrats who hold seats from districts President Donald Trump carried in 2016 voted with their party Thursday to approve procedures for his possible impeachment, a vote they’ll have to defend as they fight to keep their seats next year.

The Democrats from Trump districts who voted yes included Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina.

Cunningham, Horn and McBath had not previously expressed support for the impeachment inquiry; Spanberger and Luria had.

Five other Democrats who also flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 — Colin Alled and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida — also voted for the resolution. Those districts were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

These 10 seats are at the top of the GOP target list for 2020, with the impeachment vote certain to be an issue in those races.

Two other GOP 2020 targets — Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist from Florida — also voted in favor of the impeachment measure.

The lone Republican in a Southern seat Clinton carried, Will Hurd of Texas, voted no, as did eight other Southern Republicans who have announced they won’t seek another term in 2020.

The overall vote among Southern House members on the bill broke down entirely along party lines. Across the whole House, no Republicans supported the measure, while two Democrats —  Collin Peterson from Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — voted no.

Thursday’s vote was the first formal move by House Democrats to advance the impeachment of Trump over his overture to the president of Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

Cunningham told the Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston that he was voting for the bill in order to make the investigation into Trump more transparent, as Republicans have been demanding.

“Overall it’s a good measure to shine some light on these hearings and make sure that we respect due process,” Cunningham told the Post and Courier.

Horn, announcing her support for the bill on Twitter, stressed that she was only supporting an investigation, not Trump’s actual impeachment.

“It is a vote to create clear rules for effective public hearings and ensure transparency for the American people,” she said.  “As I’ve said all along, I always look at the facts in front of me and vote in the best interests of Oklahomans.”

Even before the vote, McBath had felt the potential sting of the impeachment fight when unhappy Trump supporters picketed her district office in suburban Atlanta earlier this month. In response, McBath took to Twitter to say she refused “to be intimidated, I will do what is right,” and included a fundraising solicitation in her post.

Three Southern House members did not vote on the impeachment bill — Jody Hice of Georgia, John Rose of Tennessee, Don McEachin of Virginia.

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Call it a “Texodus”: 6th Lone Star U.S. House Republican bows out of 2020 race

Departures follow exits of 8 Texas House Republicans in 2018

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — With a sixth U.S. House Republican from Texas opting not to run for re-election in 2020, the pending departures have earned a new nickname in Washington — a “Texodus.”

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry — one of the few Republicans left who rolled into Washington in the party’s “Contract with America” sweep in 1994 — announced his retirement September 30, joining five home-state colleagues who had earlier announced they would not see re-election.

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas

“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years,” Thornberry said in a statement announcing his retirement.  “We are reminded, however, that ‘for everything there is a season,’ and I believe that the time has come for a change.”

While Thornberry’s district, which sprawls from the Dallas Metroplex to the Panhandle, is heavily Republican and unlikely to fall into Democratic hands, his departure is the latest in a string of retirements that have reshaped the Lone Star State’s congressional delegation.

Thornberry and the five other Texas House Republicans who have announced their retirements this year have, together, more than 80 years of seniority. And of the 25 Republicans elected to the state’s delegation in 2016, only 11 will be left standing after 2020 — if no one else retires or loses. Eight retired or lost their seats in 2018.

The other GOP members retiring in 2020 are Mike Conaway, Bill Flores, Pete Olson, Will Hurd, and Kenny Marchant. All but Hurd had been in the House for more than a decade.

Thornberry had chaired the House Armed Services Committee before Republicans lost their majority in 2018 and currently serves as ranking member. However, term limits imposed by the Republican conference would have forced him out of that role after 2020, which means he would not have reclaimed his chairmanship even if Republicans took back the House.

Conway faced the same situation on the House Agriculture Committee.

Of the six seats being vacated, Conaway and Thornberry’s are safely Republican, and the next occupant will be decided in the GOP primary next March. But the other four are on the target list for Democrats, who hope to build on the two-seat gain they made in Texas in 2018.

Two other Texas House Republicans, both representing Austin-area districts, are on the retirement watch list — Michael McCaul and John Carter, who are also being targeted by Democrats. However, both men have been raising money for their re-election campaigns.

Candidates have until December 9 to decide whether to run for re-election — or ride off into the Texas sunset.

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Chasing Cornyn: Gaggle of Democrats vie to take on Texas’s senior U.S. senator

Wild card in Democratic primary remains Beto O’Rourke, although window to switch to Senate race may be running out

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — As he faces re-election in 2020, Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn can boast of nearly two decades of experience; he has more than $9 million tucked away in his campaign coffers, with millions more on the way; and he represents a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since the days of Ronald Reagan.

And yet, Democrats are falling all over themselves to get into what appears to be, at least on paper, an enterprise with dubious chance of success.

Nine Democrats are already running, with a little more than three months to go before the filing deadline. And the question mark hanging over their primary is whether former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke will abandon his campaign for president and return to the Lone Star Star state to try once again for the job that eluded him in 2018.

Indeed, it was O’Rourke’s 2018 race that has inspired the Democratic energy now aimed at Cornyn. O’Rourke didn’t beat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, but he came closer than any Democrat since the late Lloyd Bentsen won in 1988. After getting kicked in the teeth in statewide races for 20 years, Democrats have seized on that result as a sign of happier days ahead.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn

However, there are some shadows over such a sunny assessment. For one thing, Cornyn is much less polarizing than Cruz and has a higher net approval rating. The vaunted “blue wave” — which, in the end, was unable to carry O’Rourke to victory — is unlikely to be replicated in an election with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, in a state where his approval ratings are better than they are nationally. And the Democrats will have to slog through a competitive primary, which was a hurdle O’Rourke didn’t face.

O’Rourke and his campaign team insist, with some vehemence, that he will stay in the presidential race and has no interest in switching to the Senate. And even if he were inclined to change his mind, his time may be running out.

Texas has an unusually early primary, in March 2020; the filing deadline is in December 2019, well before O’Rourke will know how he fares in Iowa or New Hampshire. Just six months remain to put together a credible campaign in the nation’s second-most populous state, and it is unlikely that the other Democrats in the race are going to abandon their campaigns to accommodate a failed presidential candidate settling for his second choice.

The candidate in the Democratic race who is perhaps the most O’Rourke-like is MJ Hegar, 43, a retired Air Force fighter pilot. Like O’Rourke, she excited the Democratic grassroots during 2018 with what was ultimately a losing campaign for a U.S. House seat in suburban Austin, and she got into the Senate race after O’Rourke decided to make a White House run instead of taking on Cornyn.

Hegar is the only Democrat who was in the race and raising money during the first half of 2019. According to Federal Elections Commission reports, she raised just over $1 million — about one-tenth of Cornyn’s haul over the same period.

The Democrat chasing Cornyn with the most robust political pedigree is State Senator Royce West, 66, who has represented a metro Dallas district for more than 25 years and is among the state’s most prominent African American leaders.

State senators in Texas actually represent more people that members of the U.S. House, giving him a strong geographical base, and the state now has the largest African-American population of any state, at more than 3.8 million.

The decision by West — a veteran lawmaker not given to tilting at political windmills — to challenge Cornyn was seen as an indication of Cornyn’s perceived vulnerability. However, West doesn’t have to give up his seat in Austin to run.

African Americans and Latinos together make up a majority of Texas Democratic voters, which is reflected in the Senate primary field, where seven of the nine candidates come from those two communities.

Three African-American candidates are running in addition to West, including Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards. The race has also drawn three Latino candidates, including Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, 36, a Latina community activist who founded the civil rights group Jolt Texas.

Rounding out the top tier of candidates is Chris Bell, a former congressman from Houston who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006.

Geography also plays a role in Texas politics. West has the Dallas lane mostly to himself; Bell and Edwards will compete in Houston, and Hegar and Tzintzún Ramirez are both based in Austin.

Fundraising totals for the third quarter, due in October, should provide more clarity about which of these candidates are actually going to be viable. But none of them are going to come anywhere close to the $80 million O’Rourke raised in 2018, for a race he didn’t win.

Cornyn has not drawn a primary opponent, which will allow him to aim all of his financial firepower at whomever survives on the Democratic side

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Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd bowing out of the House

In a surprise move, the chamber’s lone black Republican and sometime Trump critic says he plans “to help our country in a different way”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Just two weeks after voting with Democrats to condemn President Donald Trump over his tweets about four liberal House members, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020, opening up a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats in West Texas.

Hurd, a former undercover CIA agent who had been considered a rising star among House Republicans before his surprise announcement, said in a statement that he was leaving “in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

While his statement did not indicate any future plans, Hurd told the Washington Post that he did intend to run for office again in the future — and that despite his criticism of the president, he planned to vote for Trump if he is the GOP nominee as expected in 2020.

“It was never my intention to stay in Congress forever, but I will stay involved in politics to grow a Republican Party that looks like America,” he said in his statement.

Of his six years in Congress, Hurd said. “There were times when it was fun and times when it wasn’t. When people were mad, it was my job to listen. When people felt hopeless, it was my job to care. When something was broken, it was my job to find out how to fix it.”

Hurd is the third Texas House Republican to forgo re-election next year, joining U.S. Reps. Pete Olson and Michael Conaway. Hurd’s seat, in Texas’s 23rd District, which he won by a mere 926 votes in 2018, is by far the most vulnerable.

Hurd, 41, was something of a political unicorn in Congress. Not only was he the only African-American Republican in the House — and one of only two in Congress — he was also a Republican representing a district that is more than 70 percent Latino, which he said gave him the opportunity to take “a conservative message to places that don’t often hear it. ”

“Folks in these communities believe in order to solve problems we should empower people not the government, help families move up the economic ladder through free markets not socialism and achieve and maintain peace by being nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys,” he said in his statement. “These Republican ideals resonate with people who don’t think they identify with the Republican Party.”

Hurd was also the last Southern Republican left in Congress representing a district Hillary Clinton carried, albeit narrowly, in 2016.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Hurd questioned special counsel Robert Mueller during his July 24 appearance to discuss his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, offering a less confrontational line of questioning than many of his fellow Republicans on the panel.

Last month, Hurd was the only Southern Republican — and one of only four in the House — who broke ranks to support a resolution condemning Trump over tweets he made about four far-left congresswomen known as “The Squad,” which were widely denounced as racist by the president’s critics.

The 23rd District is the largest geographically in Texas, stretching from the suburbs of San Antonio across rural West Texas toward El Paso, and one of the most consistently competitive seats anywhere in the country.

Hurd’s victory in 2014 marked the fourth time in a decade that the seat had switched between parties. He managed to hold it for three election cycles, although never winning by more than 3,000 votes.

The Democratic candidate for the seat in 2018, Gina Ortiz Jones, is running again in 2020, and Hurd was facing another difficult election fight to keep the seat, including, after his criticism of Trump, a possible primary challenge.

Conaway’s district, the 11th, which includes Midland, Odessa and San Angelo, is strongly Republican and will likely not change hands with his retirement. Olson’s district, the 22nd, in the suburbs of Houston, is more vulnerable to a Democratic challenge.

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Most Southern U.S. House Democrats keeping their powder dry on Trump impeachment

Just 17 of 50 Southern members have come out for impeachment inquiry, most representing safe Democratic districts

♦ By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — A majority of members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives have now come out publicly in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but Southern members are showing more caution about taking that political plunge.

As of August 1, just 17 of the 50 Southern Democrats in the House have called for an impeachment inquiry, all but two of whom represent safe Democratic or majority-minority districts where support for impeachment presents them with little future political peril.

Just two of the 10 Southern Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia — have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. And none of the five Southern Democrats representing districts Trump carried in 2016 — Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia — have taken that step.

Five other Democrats at the top of the Republican target list for 2020 — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, and Donna Shalala, Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — are also not supporting an impeachment inquiry.

The list of Southern Democrats who have so far not offered public support for an impeachment inquiry includes some of high-profile members, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee; civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia; and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 ranking Democrat in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership have been resisting calls to move forward on impeachment, which is why many of the more veteran members have not offered their support.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of which Southern Democrats have and have not come out for an impeachment inquiry:

Alabama
Not Yet In Support: Terri Sewell

Florida
Support: Mucarsel-Powell, Val Demings, Ted Deutch
Not Yet In Support: Murphy, Crist, Shalala, Wasserman Schultz, Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Frederika Wilson

Georgia
Not Yet In Support: Lewis, McBath, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, David Scott

Kentucky
Support: John Yarmuth

Louisiana
Support: Cedric Richmond

Mississippi
Support:
Bennie Thompson

North Carolina
Support: G.K. Butterfield, Alma Adams
Not Yet In Support: David Price

Oklahoma
Not Yet In Support: Horn

South Carolina
Not Yet In Support: Cunningham, Clyburn

Tennessee
Support: Steve Cohen
Not Yet In Support: Jim Cooper

Texas
Support: Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Al Green, Joaquin Castro, Filemon Vela, Lloyd Doggett
Not Yet In Support: Fletcher, Allred, Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, Sylvia Garcia, Eddie Bernice-Johnson, Marc Veasey

Virginia
Support: Wexton, Don Beyer
Not Yet In Support: Luria, Spanberger, Bobby Scott, Donald McEacherin, Gerry Connolly

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Wendy Davis returns to Texas politics by running for U.S. House seat

Davis, who became a national figure after a 2013 filibuster against new abortion restrictions, is running against U.S. Rep. Chip Roy for an Austin-area seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Former Texas Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, whose 2014 run for governor started with high hopes but ended in a crushing 20-point defeat, will run for the 21st District U.S. House seat in 2020 against freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy in the Austin suburbs.

She is the first high-profile Democrat to take on Roy, who finds himself on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s 2020 target list after winning the seat by less than 10,000 votes in 2018.

Wendy Davis

“I’ve learned I’m at my best when I’m fighting for people,” Davis said in a campaign video launching her campaign. “I’m running for Congress because people’s voices are still being silenced.”

Davis, 56, a Harvard-educated lawyer, shot to national fame in 2013 when, on the closing day of the Texas legislative session, she led a filibuster against a bill that would have imposed new restrictions on legal abortion, including a ban on elective abortions after 20 weeks.

While the filibuster succeeded in killing the bill, then-Gov. Rick Perry quickly called a special session, where the bill passed.

Davis, who wore pink sneakers during the filibuster, parlayed her notoriety into a race for governor the next year that galvanized Democratic activists around the country. She went on to lose to Republican Governor Greg Abbott by 20 points, carrying just 18 of the state’s 254 counties.

In the Texas Senate, she represented a Fort Worth district but later moved to the Austin area. The 21st District includes the southern suburbs of Austin, the northern suburbs of San Antonio and rural areas to the west.

Roy, 46, is a former federal prosecutor who before going to Congress worked for three of the most powerful figures in Texas GOP politics, Perry and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Roy responded to Davis’s announcement on Twitter, saying that while her “radical & extreme views will no doubt excite the likes of Nancy Pelosi & other DC liberals,” he would “continue fighting for the hardworking families of #Tx21 & the commonsense values that make Texas everything Washington is not.”

Before Roy’s election in 2018, the 21st District seat had been held for 30 years by Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who repeatedly won re-election by comfortable margins. After Smith retired, Roy kept the seat in GOP hands but by less than 3 points.

The seat is one of six Republican-held seats in Texas that Democrats are targeting next year.

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