In a crowded Democratic primary seeking to oust Sen. John Cornyn, State Sen. Royce West has not been shy about flexing his 26-year record in the Texas Legislature as the number one reason he stands above his fellow candidates.
“When you begin to look at my legislative history on the issues that are important to us as Democrats, you’ll see that I have worked in each and every single one of those particular areas,” West said at the Signal’s senate forum last week, promising the audience he was ready to challenge Cornyn.
West is, so far, the only Democratic candidate to be the target of Cornyn’s paid political attack ads that have begun wedding the Dallas Democrat to some of the bone-chilling horrors he’s supported, like reproductive rights and gun safety.
From Senate to Senate
“You’ve got to either serve the people or yourself, you can’t serve yourself and the people,” West said, recalling something Barbara Jordan told him privately after he was first elected to the Texas Senate.
Speaking to the Signal after a press conference at Houston’s Texas Southern University last week where West received another wave of endorsements from his fellow Texas Legislature colleagues, West said that he looked up to Jordan as one of the top Democrats in the state’s history. He said her time in the Texas Senate set the tone for his legislative career, something West has boasted about, including his votes in the chamber and ability meet with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
On policy, West has planted himself as the most moderate voice in the Senate race. Unlike some of his opponents, West favors reworking the Affordable Care Act instead of Medicare for All. He told the Signal he favors a market-focused solution to climate change, a position that sets him apart from some of his opponents who support a government-led plan like the Green New Deal.
On impeachment, a topic that has suddenly become an issue in the race following the recent opening of a Democratic-led House investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, West has stood his ground on any premature decision for how he would vote, preferring to wait for the investigation to conclude and facts to be revealed before voting to remove the president. West has also said that some of the best evidence against Trump in the impeachment inquiry is the president’s own words.
What the polls show
Last month, a Texas Tribune poll showed about a fifth of Democratic primary voters recognized West by name. Others, like Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and former Congressman Chris Bell, were in a near identical spot with roughly 20 percent of voters recognizing them by name.
Of the seven candidates polled by the Texas Tribune, Hegar came out ahead of the pack with 11 percent of Democratic primary voters supporting her while West placed second at 5 percent, a few percentage points above most other candidates. Another poll by Univision and the University of Houston last month showed similar findings, with West polling at or near other Senate candidates in favorability.
Above all, the Texas Tribune poll showed most Texans– 66 percent– aren’t familiar with any of the candidates or haven’t developed an opinion about them, suggesting a wide open primary.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org