In an email to supporters Monday, U.S. House Representative Joaquin Castro announced that he will not challenge Senator Ted Cruz during Cruz's 2018 re-election. Castro's decision likely clears the Democratic field for El Paso's Beto O'Rourke, who's barnstormed the state over the last month following his decision to take on the prominent but polarizing incumbent.
"I’ve kept my pledge to fight for hard-working Texans, and I’ll keep doing that," Castro said in an email to supporters. "However, with the threats posed by Russia and North Korea, coupled with the reckless behavior of this administration and their failure to invest in economic opportunity for the American people, at this time I believe I can best continue that work by focusing on my duties in the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees."
Castro turned down a big risk in deciding to stay in the House. His San Antonio congressional district is safely Democratic, giving Castro the opportunity to stay in the lower chamber and keep his big committee assignments as long as he wants. O'Rourke is taking no such risk in taking on Cruz, thanks to his settin
g a four-term limit for himself in the House when he was elected in 2012.
O'Rourke praised Castro's service on Monday. "Joaquin is an extraordinary member of Congress, someone who has led a principled, effective fight for his constituents and our country on the issues that matter most," O'Rourke said. "I had a chance to speak to him today and told him that I understand his decision and wish him the best going forward. I know that we will continue to work together for a long time to come and I am grateful for that."
After announcing that he'd take on Cruz on the last day of March, O'Rourke has collected donations from 20,000 individuals, he said on Facebook Monday.
"These are people that have already decided that they're not going to sit back until we magically get onto the right course in this country," O'Rourke told the Dallas Observer last week. "They're going to take matters into their own hands and they're showing up. I'm encouraged for this country, I think something really good is going on right now."
So far the only polling done for the 2018 Senate by Texas Lyceum showed O'Rourke and Cruz in a dead heat, tied at 30 percent, with more than 30 percent of voters undecided. In the same poll, Castro tested even better, leading Cruz 35-31.