Joaquin Castro's US Senate deliberations baffle state and national Democrats
Joaquín Castro (Photo: screen capture from video)

The San Antonio congressman is slated to announce next week whether he'll run against Republican U.S. Sen John Cornyn. That will follow weeks of frustration from within his own party over a perceived delay in a decision.

From the nation’s capitol to the state capitol, the scuttlebutt was that Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro would announce within days — if not hours — his campaign for U.S. Senate.

That was four weeks ago.

Back then, practically everyone in politics assumed his challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was inevitable. More than a handful of political allies rushed to publicly and privately add their political clout to his potential campaign, with the belief that a long-pined-for statewide Castro campaign would be unstoppable.

Now, over a dozen Texas and national Democrats say they are increasingly skeptical that Castro will run at all.

Those allies are baffled and frustrated with the the lack of political clarity coming from the Castro camp, especially given that veteran M.J. Hegar announced her own run for the Democratic nomination earlier this week.

One of Castro's closest friends in the Congressional delegation, Filemon Vela, went so far as joining a draft Castro campaign. This is the second time Vela has thrown his support behind his colleague. Castro similarly spent the spring of 2017 publicly mulling a run against Ted Cruz, the state's junior senator, only to return his focus on the U.S. House. Vela texted the Tribune on Wednesday that he is "exasperated with the indecision" — an oft-repeated sentiment that a half-dozen state and national Democrats expressed privately.

But an announcement is nigh. Castro will announce his decision by Wednesday, according to his top political aide, Matthew Jones.

Yet the decision will follow weeks of frustration that dates back to March and has come amid a succession of mixed signals from the four-term congressman.

The party's last Senate nominee, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, announced he would forgo another U.S. Senate run next year in lieu of a presidential campaign. The overriding sense was, given that Castro took a pass two years ago, 2020 was his chance to run and his nomination to lose.

At the same time, Democrats of large and small stature began publicly airing their Senate ambitions. One of those Texans was Hegar, who proved to be a fundraising powerhouse even as an unsuccessful U.S. House candidate last cycle.

And in that race she had the support of the fundraising juggernaut EMILY's List, a group that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. While EMILY's List has yet to endorse Hegar, the organization's leaders have made plain that they are seriously considering spending money against Cornyn.