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Republicans think Gov. Abbott is vulnerable. Why don’t Texas Democrats?

Harold Cook, a Democratic consultant, says everyone on his own list of possible candidates has plenty of strengths, but also some weaknesses.

DALLAS — Texas Republicans are lining up to run against Gov. Greg Abbott. And many political observers say he might be a bit more vulnerable than usual, despite his pile of campaign cash.

Which begs the question… why isn’t there a single Democrat in the race yet?

“I think it's probably because Beto O'Rourke is going to freeze the field, if there is a field, until he makes up his mind and announces whether he's going to run or not,” political consultant Harold Cook said in the latest episode of the Y'all-itics political podcast. “He, I think, starts out in the lead in any primary, in the Democratic primary anyway. And I'm kind of scared to death that he's not going to run, and I'm also scared to death he will run.”

Cook is a veteran Texas Democratic consultant who worked on President Bill Clinton’s and Gov. Ann Richards’ campaigns in Texas. He’s also the former executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. Never shy with his opinions, he recently hammered out harsh tweets about the lack of a candidate in his party.

“Every day that goes by where we don't have a candidate, or candidates, for governor is another missed opportunity. Do I think it's a fatal mistake? No, it's not. But I don't like missing opportunities,” Cook said.

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Cook says everyone on his own personal list of possible Democratic candidates for Governor have plenty of strengths, but also some weaknesses. And some, he says, have plenty of unknowns.

In terms of the “possibilities,” just think of some of the high-profile Democratic county judges who have sparred with Abbott and Republican leadership over everything from elections to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. 

These are your Clay Jenkins (Dallas County) and Lina Hidalgos (Harris County) of the world. There has also been speculation surrounding one of the state’s more well-known celebrities, Matthew McConaughey. But he has given no indication he is planning a run. Cook says nobody is going to seriously consider a run until they know what O’Rourke is going to do.

And one thing he says he knows to be true? You can’t “beat somebody with nobody.” So, he says the party needs to announce a candidate soon, if for no other reason than to stop missing out on golden fundraising opportunities.

“What if we had had a big favorite for governor who was already announced a week ago when all this abortion stuff came out? They would have already raised three more million dollars based on that issue alone, based on the anger of progressive voters and other protest voters who may not otherwise be progressive,” Cook said.

In this week's Y'all-itics episode, Cook also reveals what’s likely happening behind the scenes right now as party leaders try to woo candidates. And he talks about what Beto O’Rourke might be considering as he contemplates a run for governor.

Listen to the full conversation: