Exiting a summit on citizen diplomacy Tuesday at the Texas Capitol, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, was trailed by a handful of reporters.
“Something tells me you didn’t come to hear a speech about international affairs,” Castro said.
He was right.
The reporters were there to once again ask whether he would consider running for governor in 2018.
It has become a somewhat tired ritual. But with no hint of any formidable Democratic candidate ready to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, reporters have little else to work with, and for Castro, as for his twin brother, Julián, the only day more nettlesome than the ones on which they are asked about their future political ambitions, will be the day when reporters stop asking about those ambitions.
Wendy Davis did not launch her bid for governor until Oct. 3, 2013. But from nearly the moment her epic filibuster of anti-abortion legislation in the Texas Senate went viral nationally in June of that year, the former Democratic senator from Fort Worth seemed bound to run.
“You know, I would be lying if I told you that I hadn’t had aspirations to run for a statewide office,” Davis told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes the day after the 2013 filibuster.
Davis lost by 20 points to Abbott and is no longer pestered with questions about running for statewide office.
Last week, Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa stirred the ashes of hope that Joaquín Castro might run in 2018 in search of faint embers.
“He’s never ruled it out,” Hinojosa said of Castro.
So, Castro was asked Tuesday, apropos Hinojosa’s comments, “Are you still considering it?”
“No. I have nothing further to add right now,” Castro replied. “My plan is to run for re-election, as I said when we had a press conference here about a month ago.”
That was Aug. 16, when Castro, also in the Capitol where he served 10 years as a state representative, said to much the same gaggle of reporters, “Well, I have a job right now, and my plan is to run for re-election.”
Castro was asked Tuesday if Hinojosa was guilty of peddling false information.
“The chairman is a great friend and has worked really hard building up the Democratic Party over the last few years, and I’m very appreciative of his work,” Castro said.
Have you ruled out a run for governor?
“My plan is to run for re-election,” replied Castro, now chuckling at the inability of reporters to let it go.
What about those who say any Democrat who would run for governor or other statewide office in 2018 would just be a “sacrificial lamb.”
“I think Democrats are going be more competitive this year than before,” Castro said. “I think Democrats who run statewide have a fighting chance to win.”
Hinojosa said the party will field a statewide slate from governor on down, but — absent Castro or his twin, a former mayor of San Antonio and U.S. secretary of housing and urban development who is teaching at the University of Texas and mulling running for president — it might not gel until right up to the Dec. 11 filing deadline.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is running for the Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz. (Castro passed on that race.)
Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for comptroller in 2014, is running for lieutenant governor.
Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said the failure of Texas Democrats to have a good candidate for governor — even one who can’t win — could undermine Democrats down ballot.
“The lack of a credible candidate could hurt their ability to pick up two or three U.S. House seats, or somewhere between six and 10 state House seats,” Jones said.
RRH Elections, a national Republican election blog, this week rated Abbott’s governorship, “the safest seat of all.”
“Even if a credible Democrat did emerge, they would face all but insurmountable challenges: Abbott is quite popular and universally known, and Texas, while trending toward Democrats, is brutally inelastic,” the blog concluded, noting parenthetically that “(Some Democrats are trying to recruit Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) into the race, but that seems more a pipe-dream than a realistic possibility at this point).”
The Capitol reporters made one last stab at Castro on Tuesday: What about those who say if you don’t run against Abbott, nobody else will?
“That if I don’t run?” he said, clarifying the question before dismissing it.
“No,” he said of the notion that he is indispensable. “Absolutely not.”