Texas’ rich diversity is on display in the Democratic Senate primary

by | Aug 14, 2019 | 2020 Elections, Politics

Imagine for a moment that you are John Cornyn. You breezed through your last election in 2014 and guaranteed yourself another six years in the United States Senate, saying the right things while being on autopilot. 

Then, suddenly, on the eve of your preordained re-election, all eyes are on you. The Republican president is struggling in your home state. Your GOP colleagues in U.S. house are retiring, not to spend more time with their families but because victory was no longer a foregone conclusion. Media from all over the country are phoning in and asking how you– a Senator with a lower approval rating than the guy who barely escaped being rolled over by a skateboarding El Pasoan– will survive what could be a political awakening. 

The race for the 2020 Senate in Texas is on. More than a handful of Democrats are vying to oust Cornyn — an unusually large, formidable field. Some argue having so many worthy candidates could lead to a protracted primary fight that bleeds time and money better spent on the ultimate match with Cornyn. That may be true. (It depends on how bloody things get.) But another way to look at it is the more voices that are educating voters on Cornyn’s lackluster record, the better. 

A Senate race that represents Texas

That Democrats have an actual bench of candidates is a departure from the past two decades. And that bench is made up candidates from many different walks of life. The party has certainly put forward diversity before, including Ron Kirk and Rick Noriega for Senate. But the current crop more broadly reflects what the Texas of today actually looks like.

Four of the major candidates are women: Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, Air Force Pilot MJ Hegar, activist Sema Hernandez, and civil rights leader Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez. Edwards and state Sen. Royce West are African American. Attorney Chris Bell is the lone white male, while two are Latina—Tzintzún Ramirez and Hernandez. All come from the diverse cities of Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Ideologically, some are staking out center-left terrain, others are embracing bold progressivism. 

On the issues, one of the most pronounced differences among the candidates is on healthcare. So far, three candidates to enter the race (Tzintzún Ramirez, Hernandez and former member of Congress Chris Bell) support Medicare for All, a plan to create a national health insurance program by expanding Medicare. Other candidates, like West and Edwards, want to improve and build on the success of the Affordable Care Act. Hegar has come out in support of a public option. 

What matters most, however, is that the entire Senate primary field and all other Democrats in the state want to protect pre-existing medical conditions and bring the cost of prescription drugs down. This is what Texas voters, in both parties, care about. 

Health care is among the starkest differences between the GOP and Cornyn and the Democratic Party. It helped the latter in 2018 and will again in 2020. Let the games begin.

Photo by Amanda for Texas/MJ for Texas/Cristina for Texas/Royce West for U.S. Senate

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