Democratic excitement causes flashbacks

I must be hallucinating, or having some sort of flashback . . . which I assure you isn’t drug-induced.

Texas Democrats, not Republicans, are all agog over the looming struggle for attention between two rising stars. One of them came so very close to being elected to the U.S. Senate; the other is a former big-city mayor and a former housing secretary for the most recent Democratic president.

Stand tall, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro.

O’Rourke almost defeated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the midterm election; he might run for president of the United States in 2020. Castro was mayor of San Antonio, the state’s second-largest city and served in the Cabinet of Barack H. Obama; he, too, might run for POTUS.

Of the two of them, Castro seems the surer bet to toss his Stetson into the ring, although O’Rourke keeps tantalizing many around the country with messages that suggest that he, too, is likely to join the Democratic free-for-all.

Texas once was a Democratic bastion, where only Democrats were seen and heard. Then it morphed into a Republican stronghold and the GOP snatched all the headlines, the air time and people’s political attention.

It’s now becoming more of an inter-party competition, instead of an intra-party donnybrook. I like the idea of the two parties fighting hard for the hearts and minds of Texans and other Americans.

As for O’Rourke and Castro, I am beginning to sense a rivalry in the making.

Politico reports that a Texas political strategist, Colin Strother, sees the two men’s disparate upbringing well could produce a unique situation in Texas. They won’t be fighting for the same constituency, Strother guesses. “I see them as two completely different types of candidates,” he said.

Castro sees himself as the underdog, given O’Rourke’s meteoric rise while losing his race to Cruz. He has a twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who’s been helping him raise money to try to bring down the O’Rourke colossus.

O’Rourke, you might recall, campaigned against Cruz without the help of high-powered, top-dollar political consultants and/or pollsters. He just visited every one of Texas’s 254 counties, talked to voters wherever he found them. What astounded me was the amount of time O’Rourke spent in GOP-stronghold counties in rural West Texas, from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin. Didn’t anyone tell him the Panhandle is where the John Birch Society used to give “mainstream politicians” fits?

I don’t know whether both — or either — of these young men are going to vie for the Big Prize in 2020. I’m just delighted to see the excitement they both are generating in a state that has grown quite unaccustomed to hearing noise from Democrats’ side of the fence.

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