Oops! Joaquin Castro leaks his Senate run decision to reporter... "inadvertently"

Don’t you hate it when that happens? Imagine being a member of Congress contemplating a challenge to one of the opposition party’s top members in the Senate only to have your decision leaked to a reporter. By you. That’s what happened, allegedly, to Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).

The San Antonio Express-News broke the news about Joaquin Castro’s decision not to challenge Senator John Cornyn’s re-election bid in 2020. Castro’s quote was a standard one using the excuse that if he runs for a different office than the one he has now, it will likely be in Texas.

Castro, 44, of San Antonio, announced his decision to stay out of the race in an interview with Hearst Newspapers.

“Right now, I’m going to focus on my work in the House of Representatives. I’ve been doing what I feel is important and meaningful work here,” he said. “If and when I run for another office, it is likely to be something that takes me back home to Texas.”

An odd little tidbit emerged as reported by Roll Call. Castro leaked his own decision about a Senate run to that reporter.

Castro’s decision came out, inadvertently, in a politically dramatic fashion. He told a reporter who was simultaneously on a press conference call with Cornyn but hadn’t muted the other line.

Maybe it isn’t unusual for a political reporter to be talking to one candidate while also listening in on a conference call with another candidate – candidates who might face off with each other in an election – but I’ve never heard of such a leak before I read about this one. Did Castro leak it to the reporter by accident? Color me skeptical. I don’t believe in coincidences in politics. Also, in every conference call I’ve been on with politicians, one of the first things the call’s coordinator does is remind everyone to mute the call.

Joaquin Castro is a back-bencher in the House of Representatives but he is seeing his career gain some traction, with a focus on intelligence and border issues. He is also the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus now. Texas Democrats pinned their hopes of taking Cornyn’s seat with a run by Castro, especially when his twin brother Julian entered the Democrat presidential primary race. The added exposure of Hispanic twin brothers running for different offices at the same time could have been beneficial to both.

His seats on the Intelligence Committee and Foreign Affairs committees have made him a frequent cable TV guest. Earlier this year, he authored the resolution leading to a rebuke of President Donald Trump for invoking emergency powers to overrule congressional spending limits on construction of a border wall. In December, Castro also took over the chairmanship of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, an alliance that has become influential on immigration and border issues.

So, now it’s smooth sailing for MJ Hegar. She announced her candidacy and since then the potential of Castro entering the race has been hanging over her head. Just two days ago she was promising a civil primary if he jumped into the race. Now the Afganistan war veteran is on the fast track to winning the Democrat primary. Castro can continue on with his quest to rise to the top of House Democrat leadership and Hegar can pursue a Senate seat. Hegar tweeted out a supportive statement about Castro.

Cornyn’s campaign manager noted that Hegar is running as a Schumer recruit.

Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson issued a statement contending that Hegar is running at the behest of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Hegar may have the support of the New York and California elites but she has none in Texas. Shame on Chuck Schumer and DC Democrats for forcing a high-profile Hispanic leader out of the Senate race,” the statement read.

At various times in recent years, both Castro twins have been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Joaquin’s statement sounds as though that is what could bring him back to Texas. Or, maybe Julian will run for Governor of Texas when he drops out of the Democrat presidential primary. Governor Abbott, a Republican, was re-elected to his second term in November 2018 [see correction below]. In the meantime, Joaquin can get back to raising money for his own re-election.

Castro’s twin brother, Julián, is running for president and Joaquin is one of the co-chairs of the presidential campaign. Castro’s adviser recently told the Texas Tribune that the congressman’s lackluster fundraising quarter was due in part to his focus on supporting his brother’s presidential bid.

The four-term congressman raised $36,000 in the first three months of the year and ended the quarter with $88,000 on hand. Cornyn, meanwhile, has been building a massive war chest, ending the first fundraising quarter with $7.4 million on hand.

The Castro brothers are young, at age 44. There’s plenty of time for future runs for office. The trend continues, though, with high profile potential candidates turning down the opportunity to run for a seat in the Senate. First, it was Stacey Abrams in Georgia and then it was Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock is expected to announce his presidential bid in a couple of weeks. Joaquin Castro is the third Democrat to take a pass on trying to pick up a Senate seat. Meanwhile, Senator Cornyn claims Castro was forced out by Schumer’s pick, Hegar. I’ll go get the popcorn.

Correction: Castro was originally listed as (R-TX). It’s been corrected above.

Correction: Texas does not have gubernatorial term limits as originally asserted in the article. It has also been corrected above. Our apologies for the errors.