US Rep. Ronny Jackson, prominent Trump ally, weighing US Senate run in 2026
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, meets with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) at his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Sept. 19, 2022

U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo, recently launched Spanish-language TV ads in his reelection campaign — an unexpected use of campaign resources given that he is sitting in one of this election season’s safest congressional districts in the state.

Jackson, best known as the doctor to former President Donald Trump, launched the TV spots last week in a bid to introduce himself to Latino voters. While his rural, Panhandle district is predominantly white, his campaign says it is an effort to grow his appeal with an ascendant voting bloc statewide.

That could be because he’s interested in running for a higher office. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is not up for reelection until 2026, but Jackson is already considering running for the Senate seat, according to two people familiar with his thinking who were not authorized to speak on the record. Jackson did not respond to a request for comment, and Cornyn’s campaign declined to comment.

Cornyn has taken a hit with Republican voters in the state after he led GOP negotiations on the bipartisan gun restriction bill that Congress passed after the Uvalde school shooting in May.

Since his election two years ago, Jackson has wasted little time making allies in the Texas congressional delegation, and his well-known association with former President Donald Trump has strengthened his stature. He has doled out endorsements, cut checks and hosted events in competitive races, lending a Trump-backed credibility to candidates eager to court the former president’s most loyal supporters.

At the same time, Jackson has emerged as one of the top fundraisers in the delegation, collecting $3.8 million so far this election cycle — a hefty amount for a member in a safe seat.

Armed with Trump’s backing, Jackson weathered a storm of controversy during his first race for the 13th Congressional District in 2020. Much of it stemmed from when Trump nominated Jackson to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018, which surfaced workplace misconduct allegations against him, including that he drank too much on the job and improperly handled medication. He denied the allegations but withdrew from consideration for the job.

In May, congressional ethics investigators announced they had found “substantial” evidence that Jackson had misused campaign contributions to pay for a private dining club in Amarillo. Jackson did not cooperate with the investigation, but his lawyer challenged the findings, saying Jackson complied with all campaign finance regulations.

Jackson’s Spanish-language TV ad, which started airing last week, is mostly biographical, calling Jackson an “America-first firefighter” and recapping his background as a U.S. Navy rear admiral and doctor to three presidents.

Jackson is currently spending about $27,000 on the TV buy through Oct. 25, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm.

“Dr. Ronny Jackson will always fight back against the Democrats’ radical policies that are destroying our country,” a narrator says, “and he will fight to put America — and Texas — first.”

Cornyn has been unapologetic about the gun bill, which all but one Texas Republican in Congress opposed. He got booed at the state party convention while the bill was under negotiation, and polls began to show his approval rating declining with GOP voters.

Jackson was especially vocal about the legislation. After President Joe Biden signed it into law, Jackson tweeted a video of himself clutching two guns and daring Biden to “come and take it.”

Few other names have come up publicly as potential Cornyn challengers in 2026, if he runs for reelection. One name is Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has sparred with Cornyn over Paxton’s personal legal troubles and who has criticized the gun bill. An anti-Cornyn group, Defend Texas Liberty PAC, polled a hypothetical Cornyn-Paxton race in July and found Paxton comfortably ahead.

Jackson, meanwhile, is set to cruise to a second term in a district that voted for Trump by 46 percentage points in 2020. He was unopposed in his primary, and his Democratic opponent is Kathleen Brown. His redrawn district notably picked up some of Denton County in the Dallas suburbs, giving him more of a presence in the state’s largest media market.


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/09/19/ronny-jackson-john-cornyn-ad-launch/.

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